Allen Weisselberg testified he never paid much attention to the apartment's size
Donald Trump signed a document 30 years ago that gave the true size of his New York penthouse — which was later listed as far larger on his financial statements, according to evidence shown Tuesday at the former president's civil business fraud trial.
The evidence appeared in an email attachment shown as Allen Weisselberg, the former finance chief of Trump's company, testified in New York Attorney General Letitia James' fraud lawsuit against Trump and his Trump Organization. Trump denies any wrongdoing.
The attachment was a 1994 document, signed by Trump, that pegged his Trump Tower triplex at 10,996 square feet — not the 30,000 square feet later claimed for years on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.
Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, said he recalled seeing the email but not the attachment, explaining that the attachments were documents he already had on file in the company's offices. But in any event, he said, he didn't pay much mind to the apartment's size because its value amounted to a fraction of Trump's wealth.
"I never even thought about the apartment. It was de minimis, in my mind," Weisselberg said, using a Latin term that means, essentially, too small to care about.
"It was not something that was that important to me when looking at a $6 billion, $5 billion net worth."
A little bit of 'marketing'
Later, Weisselberg said he applied the same logic when confronted with an appraised value for Trump's Seven Springs estate north of New York City, which was worth $230 million US less than his financial statements showed. Asked if he would have alerted the accounting firm preparing the statements to the disparity, Weisselberg said no.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged signing documents certifying that financial summaries given to banks to meet loan requirements were "true, correct, and completely and fairly" represented Trump's financial condition.
Weisselberg repeatedly said he couldn't remember whether he discussed the financial statements with Trump while they were being finalized. He said he reviewed drafts "from a 30,000-foot level" but paid special attention to something "very important" to Trump: the descriptions of his properties.
"It was a little bit of a marketing piece for banks to read about our properties, how well they're taken care of, that they're first-class properties," said Weisselberg, who added that Trump scrutinized the language used in such descriptions.
"He might say, 'Don't use the word "beautiful" — use the word "magnificent,"' or something like that," Weisselberg testified.
Trump not in court
Trump, who attended the first three days of the non-jury trial last week in Manhattan, did not return to court to see his former chief financial officer testify. An appeals court on Friday rejected Trump's bid to halt the trial while he fights a pretrial ruling that could strip him of Trump Tower and other properties.
Weisselberg, 76, has laid low since leaving a New York City jail six months ago after serving 100 days for dodging taxes on $1.7 million US in job perks, including a Manhattan apartment, luxury cars for him and his wife and his grandchildren's school tuition.
"Over the last number of months, it's been, I'm sure, well-documented and well-known that I've been through quite a bit," he testified in a May deposition in the civil case.
He testified that he was having trouble sleeping, started seeing a therapist and was taking a generic form of Valium as he tried to "re-acclimate myself back to society."
Weisselberg has not given interviews or commented publicly since leaving jail.
Trump, in his deposition in April, said of his former lieutenant: "He was with me for a long time. He was liked. He was respected. Now, he's gone through hell and back. What's happened to him is very sad."
In a pretrial ruling last month, Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump and other defendants, including Weisselberg, committed years of fraud by exaggerating the value of Trump's assets and net worth on his financial statements.
As punishment, Engoron ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, putting the future of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in doubt. An appeals court on Friday blocked enforcement of that aspect of Engoron's ruling, at least for now.
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