An executive at Donald Trump’s company testified Monday that he was afraid to hear those famous words – “you’re fired!” – if he goes to the big boss with concerns that two top company officials are conspiring to evade taxes on privileges paid by the company.
Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney told jurors at the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial that he didn’t see much benefit in appreciating longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. or CEO Matthew Calamari Sr., two of Trump’s most loyal and trusted aides.
“I thought if I started to refuse or fight back, I would probably lose my job,” McConney said near the end of his sometimes controversial fourth day of testimony — a lengthy warm-up for Weisselberg looming into The prosecution’s star witness.
“Allen is my boss. Who am I going to tell? I’m not going to confront him with it. I’m not going to argue,” McConney said at another point in his testimony. “I will do what he tells me to do.”
Judge Juan Manuel Mercan declared McConney a hostile witness after prosecutors complained he was more responsive to the defense’s questions, even though he was exempted from testifying as a witness. prosecution witness.
McConney, who still works for the Trump Organization and has a lawyer paid by the company, admitted on the witness stand Monday that he spoke to the company’s attorneys about his testimony during the hearing. court did not take place. He said he even did some tax calculations on their behalf on Sunday night.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to a casual observer, he’s very useful to you (defensively),” said Mercan. “On the other hand, it seems like he really has a hard time understanding people’s questions and frankly, he has trouble giving reliable answers.”
McConney is expected to return to the witness stand on Tuesday. As a hostile witness, he could be subject to several more hours of questioning as prosecutors seek to tweak his earlier testimony and his answers to questions in eight appearances. in front of a jury over the past few years.
The Trump Organization, which holds various assets of the former US president – including buildings, golf courses and hotels – is accused of helping some top executives avoid income taxes on the compensation they receive in addition to wages.
The company, which could be fined more than $1 million if convicted, has denied wrongdoing. The company’s lawyers allege that Weisselberg orchestrated the scheme himself without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge, and that the company did not benefit from his actions.
Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to receiving $1.7 million in off-the-book compensation and agreed to testify as a prosecution witness at trial, possibly as early as Tuesday, in exchange for prison sentence of 5 months.
Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles turned part of McConney’s cross-examination into a pre-emptive attack on Weisselberg – giving testimony that he surreptitiously tried to enrich himself with company coins .
McConney said Weisselberg and Calamari Sr. relied on him for years to falsify salary records to hide extras like a Manhattan apartment and a Mercedes-Benz car from their taxable income, in part by reducing their wages by spending charge of those privileges and issue a fake W -2 form.
McConney said Weisselberg, his supervisor, even asked him to give his wife a one-time $6,000 paycheck for an absentee job at the company so she could qualify. receive Social Security benefits. He said Weisselberg warned him not to tell others in the company about what they were doing.
“Allen Weisselberg doesn’t want the rest of the company to know this secret,” McConney said.
Trump signed off on some pay adjustments — which McConney said Weisselberg claimed was his way of returning the company to the perks — but it’s unclear if he knew they weren’t paying taxes.
Neither Trump nor any of his children who have worked as chief executives of the Trump Organization have been charged or accused of misconduct.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass captured McConney’s reluctance to speak to Trump, questioning him about so-called in-person re-interrogation – an opportunity for him to ask more questions after the examination cross of the defense.
“You faked a W-2, you invented an employee and gave her a W-2 for work she didn’t complete,” Steinglass asked. “Have you ever brought this to Donald Trump’s attention and said, ‘The CFO is making me commit fraud… I’m not comfortable doing this.’”
“No,” McConney said.
Also on Monday, the judge in the New York Attorney General’s fraud case against Trump and the Trump Organization appointed former Manhattan federal judge, Barbara Jones, as an independent supervisor overseeing the transactions. business of the company.
Jones has recently been the special master in two other high-profile cases involving Trump. She reviewed documents seized during FBI raids on one-time Trump personal attorneys, Michael Cohen, in an investigation involving hush payments, and Rudy Giuliani, in an investigation of his dealings in Ukraine.