DA’s 1st Trump Org Trial Witness Makes $450K/Year at Trump Org
- Donald Trump’s real estate and golf company is on trial on tax fraud charges in Manhattan.
- The DA began his case by calling a less than ideal prosecution witness, the company controller.
- The witness was asked about his salary of $ 450Ka-year – and he said that he had prepared it with Trump’s lawyers.
Manhattan prosecutors called their first witness in the Trump Organization tax fraud trial on Monday – and he immediately worked to impress the jury that this witness, the controller of the company, is not on his team, but on the Trump team.
The less than ideal DA witness, whose testimony continues Tuesday, is Jeffrey McConney. As controller, McConney has for 35 years overseen payroll and tax reporting in the former president’s multibillion-dollar real estate and golf resort empire.
At the start of McConney’s testimony, lead prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked him how much Trump’s company still paid him — he said $450,000 a year — and how he had stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
McConney told jurors that he was in fact siding with the defense, which took him out on his testimony as recently as Sunday, the day before his arrest.
“When did you talk to Mrs. Necheles this Sunday?” asked Steinglass, in an awkward confrontation, as he struggled to publicly acknowledge his own witness. Susan Necheles is one of the defense attorneys of the Trump Organization.
“Did he tell you to make sure you hit certain points?” Steinglass asked.
“I believe so, yes,” answered McConney, a large man with white hair and a mustache.
“Did he tell you to phrase things in certain ways?” continued the prosecutor.
“I believe so,” McConney said again.
“You weren’t willing to discuss your testimony with anyone from the DA’s office?” the prosecutor then asked — earning a defense objection that was sustained by the judge.
“In the last two weeks,” the prosecutor tried again, this time leaving out McConney’s “will” or any of his other feelings, other than that, “did you know that your lawyer refused to make it available? ”
McConney replied that he couldn’t quite remember, but that if his lawyer advised him not to do something, he generally didn’t do it.
Oh, and his lawyer? Also paid by the Trump Organization, McConney testified.
Steinglass requested at this point that McConney be declared a hostile witness, a designation that would give the prosecutor the advantage of being allowed to ask leading, yes-or-no type questions.
“His attorney in fact is being paid by the Trump Organization,” Steinglass argued to the trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, outside the jury hearing. “This is the definition of adverse testing.”
“It’s friendly,” Necheles, the defense attorney, replied. “Answer every question.”
The judge agreed, explaining that a hostile witness statement “is about making the witness open and honest and not concealed,” and “right now, I don’t think I have the basis to declare a hostile witness.”
McConney was allowed to continue his testimony, most of which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Two subsidiaries of the Trump Organization — the Trump Corporation, which employs its executives, and the Trump Payroll Corporation, which pays those executives — are charged in a 15-year tax evasion scheme.
The alleged scheme has been described during opening statements earlier Monday.
The two entities, both doing business as the Trump Organization, are accused by prosecutors of allowing the executives to take a significant amount of their pay in the form of tax-free perks, such as rent-free Trump apartments and free use of luxury vehicles. .
The defense denies any complicity in the alleged scheme and counter that it really victimized the company and that no one from the top of the company was involved.
No one at the top — neither Donald Trump nor any of his three eldest children — is charged or required to appear in court for the trial, which is expected to last another month or more.
But Donald Trump’s name came up during McConney’s testimony.
In a key moment, Steinglass questioned McConney when his boss, Allen Weisselberg — the company’s former chief financial officer and the DA’s most important witness — stopped receiving pay in the form of non-employee bonuses.
He stopped around the time Trump was elected president and turned day-to-day operations into a revocable trust, an entity run by Eric Trump and Weisselberg, Steinglass asked.
“I thought it was a coincidence,” McConney replied.
“Did you say by coincidence?” Steinglass replied, more of a skeptical thought spoken aloud than an actual question.
McConney testifies with immunity after testifying before a Manhattan grand jury. References to his testimony in court documents indicate that he took the blame for his actions and did not incriminate anyone at the top of the company.
Weisselberg left as CFO after being charged in the summer of 2021; remains on paid leave pay. His last reported salary was more than $900,000. He, too, is not expected to incriminate anyone above him.
A third key prosecution witness from inside the company, whose name has not been released, also remains on Trump’s payroll and is cooperating with the defense instead of prosecutors, he was told during jury selection last week.
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