Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg has been helping his boss lie for years
There is probably no one who knows the truth about Trump’s finances better than Allen Weisselberg. Not that he always said it.
IIt is September 2015, and Donald Trump is walking through Trump Tower, showing off his breathtaking view of the New York City skyline. In the distance is 40 Wall Street, which the real estate mogul is focusing on right now. âBy the way,â he said, turning to his right arm, âdo you know what the mortgage is? The mortgage pays, what, 2.5%?
âYeah, that’s what we get,â his lieutenant dutifully replies. “It’s very low.”
Trump, three months after starting his presidential bid, waged a different campaign that day to get Forbes to get him as high as possible on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America. Which is why he’s so keen on bragging about something as small as his low interest rate. Regardless of the facts, it’s actually 3.665%, not 2.5%.
Trump has long been used to lying about his finances. And for years, his masquerade relied on the support of his best soldier: Allen Weisselberg, longtime CFO of the Trump Organization. For those familiar with Weisselberg’s role, it’s no surprise that the CFO is now facing an indictment for alleged financial crimes. (Weisselberg did not respond to a request for comment.)
For nearly 50 years, Weisselberg worked with Trump, looking after his money and, when times got tough, renegotiating payments. The two businessmen aren’t necessarily alike: Trump loves to be the center of attention and endless ramblings, while Weisselberg is known for going backstage and speaking succinctly. But they’ve been teaming up for a long time, including in a persistent effort to convince Forbes that Trump is richer than he really is.
Over the years, reporters have fought with Weisselberg in countless phone calls and meetings, and even over lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the 1990s. But in 2015, in the midst of the race for the presidential election that would propel Trump to the White House, Weisselberg and his boss went all in, welcoming two editors and a reporter to Trump Tower for nearly two hours to rant over the assets of the Trump Organization, with little allegiance to the facts, while several recorders captured the conversation for posterity.
While Trump was lying freely and recklessly, Weisselberg was lying primarily to support his boss. âWe’ll make at least $ 75 million this year,â Trump said at one point, referring to his Miami golf resort Doral. âYes,â Weisselberg was quick to assert, even though the resort was on track to earn just $ 13.8 million, according to documents the Trump Organization subsequently submitted to local authorities.
“You know what we pay [in] interest on this mortgage? Trump asked, again referring to the golf resort. “Two percent.” No, says Weisselberg: “Less”. “What, 1.75%? Asked Ivanka Trump, whose father had urged her to apply pressure. Forbes as well as. âYes, 1.75%,â Donald Trump said. “Okay, 1.75%,” Weisselberg confirmed. But according to Trump’s financial disclosure report, filed with federal officials, he was actually paying 1.75% more a benchmark interest rate, which then hovered around 0.5%. So, in other words, he was really paying more than 2% interest, not less.
Back to 40 Wall Street, where the lies got bolder. âIt’s a 78-story building,â Trump said, referring to the 63-story building. âFully rented. Throw a fortune. It’s gonna rock, how about $ 50 million maybe this year? He asked before answering his own question. â$ 50 million. “Yes,” Weisselberg confirmed. The building was actually only going to generate $ 11.9 million, according to a document later filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
There was also a more subtle deception. Take, for example, Weisselberg’s attempts to increase the value placed on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. âThere was a sale â here’s the item that was in the Palm Beach Daily News“Weisselberg said, picking up a story on a property he described as 8.8 acres.” It was a combined sale of $ 116.1 million. Not our property, another property in Palm Beach. But they don’t have half of what we have on our property. Weisselberg continued, âWe have about 19 acres – you do the multiplication.â He added that Trump had invested an additional $ 14 million in the ballroom, $ 4 million in waterfront cabanas and $ 700,000 in a tennis center. “Total $ 267 [million]. ”
The problem was that Trump’s property – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – couldn’t be subdivided into lots for multi-millionaires to build homes. And that meant he was actually worth around $ 100 million less than what Weisselberg was offering.
He and Trump attempted a similar stunt with Trump Tower, noting that the Crown Building across the street had recently sold for $ 1.8 billion. âIt’s bigger,â Trump boasted, even though his property was actually 25% smaller. Weisselberg dismissed our own independent research on the building, insisting that Forbes evaluate it based on the megavent. âYou have a great lineup across the street,â he said. “How can you say, ‘No, let’s go get 500 sources.’ How do you ignore this? This mockup for me is worth gold.
Weisselberg wasn’t the only MP to demean himself by helping his boss. Former Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen has also worked on taking stock of the numbers over the years. In testimony to Congress in 2019, Cohen admitted to helping rig Trump’s finances – and not just Forbes.
âThese financial statements have been used by me for two purposes,â Cohen said. “One was discussing with the media, if it was Forbes or other magazines, to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s significant net worth. It was a function. Another was that when we later deal with the insurance companies, we provide them with these copies so that they understand that the premium – which is based, sometimes, on the individual’s ability to pay – would be reduced. Cohen also explained that the Trump Organization submitted the documents to Deutsche Bank, one of its lenders.
In a court file, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office later suggested it was investigating allegations that the Trump Organization committed insurance and banking fraud. The big question at this point is whether an indictment will pressure Weisselberg, who has always had a more intimate role in Trump’s financial machinations than Cohen, to turn on the former president as well.