NEW YORK (AP) — How did Donald Trump’s eldest sons — whom he entrusted to run his company when he became president — react to learning that a top executive was planning to avoid taxes on lavish corporate perks?
They gave him a raise, according to testimony Friday at the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial.
Allen Weiselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, testified that Eric Trump raised his pay by $200,000 after an internal audit prompted by Trump’s 2016 election found that he was cutting his salary and bonuses because of the cost of benefits .
The raises brought Weisselberg’s annual salary to $1.14 million, extra cash he said paid for things Trump and company previously had: Manhattan apartment rentals, Mercedes-Benz cars for him and his wife, tuition of his grandchildren and many more.
The company continues to pay Weisselberg $640,000 in salary and $500,000 in vacation bonuses and only nominally punished him after his arrest in July 2021, reassigning him to senior counsel and moving his Trump Tower office. He is now on paid leave.
“Now, even after you pleaded guilty in this case, the company cut your salary a penny?” Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger questioned Weisselberg on the third and final day of his testimony.
“Even with the betrayal of their trust?” asked.
Weiselberg testified that Eric and Donald Trump Jr., both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, knew from an audit that Weiselberg had not reported his apartment as taxable income, as required by law.
Weiselberg told jurors he stopped jamming after the audit and soon asked Eric Trump for a raise, conveying that “since the practice was no longer continuing, I would need some additional income to pay for these expenses.”
Weiselberg said Eric Trump, who runs the company’s day-to-day operations, signed off on his raise and is now preparing to approve another $500,000 vacation bonus — even as Weiselberg prepares to move to New York’s infamous Rikers prison complex .
Other executives accused of conspiring to avoid taxes also kept their jobs and pay, Weisselberg said. They include his son, former Central Park rink manager Barry Weisselberg, and the company’s chief operating officer, Matthew Calamari Sr.
Weiselberg, 75, pleaded guilty in August to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. The deal requires him to testify before the prosecution in exchange for a five-month prison sentence. Weiselberg, who faced up to 15 years in prison, said he previously turned down a sentence of one to three years.
Manhattan prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization helped top executives avoid paying taxes on perks paid by the company and that Weiselberg is to blame because they were “senior executives” acting on his behalf.
The tax fraud case is the only trial to emerge from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation into Trump and his business practices. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million and face difficulties in closing deals.
Weiselberg’s testimony on Friday suggested that key Trump Organization officials — members of Trump’s family — condoned his behavior once it was discovered, rather than firing him and alerting authorities. Weisselberg said the program benefited the company because it didn’t have to pay him as much salary.
The company’s lawyers, however, argue that the Trumps are deeply loyal, stressing that Weiselberg was “one of the most trusted people they knew” and how they continue to stand by him, even though he admitted he betrayed them. His lawyers are paid by the company.
The company’s attorney Alan Futerfas, asking Weisselberg on cross-examination, noted that even in “the worst moment of your life” Trump “hasn’t kicked you to the curb.” But, the lawyer asked, “you don’t understand that he means he approves of what you did, do you?”
“No,” Weiselberg said.
Trump, who announced Tuesday that he will run for president again in 2024, is not expected to appear at the trial. But he signaled Friday that he is following through, defending Weiselberg and criticizing prosecutors in Truth Social posts.
Trump wrote that the case had “collapsed” after Weiselberg testified Thursday that neither Trump nor the Trump family were involved in his tax avoidance scheme.
“Has a long-serving executive paid tax on the use of a company car or a company apartment, or payments (not even as a tax deduction!) for their grandchildren’s education? Is that why he gets handcuffed and jailed?’ Trump wrote, describing the situation as “VERY UNFAIR!”
Trump was elected president in November 2016, bringing new scrutiny to the Trump Organization, a private entity through which he and his family manage their golf courses, luxury towers and other investments.
Weisselberg said he and another executive, Jeffrey McConney, decided then that the company needed to end some of its questionable pay practices. They brought in a lawyer to Washington who conducted an audit and wrote a memo of her findings.
McConney, the senior vice president and controller, removes payroll records to reduce Weisselberg’s income taxes. He was granted immunity and testified earlier in the trial.