- Opening statements in the Trump Organization tax-fraud trial are expected Monday in Manhattan.
- During jury selection, prosecutors revealed two DA witnesses have stopped meeting with them.
- At least three DA witnesses, including Trump Org’s ex-controller and CFO, remain on Trump’s payroll.
At least three prosecution witnesses in the Trump Organization tax-fraud trial are still on the former president’s payroll and two have stopped speaking with the Manhattan DA’s office entirely, prosecutors have revealed in open court.
In fact, some are meeting instead with lawyers for Trump’s company.
The shocking news — that the DA’s case against Trump’s company relies in part on multiple witnesses who are, as one prosecutor put it Thursday, “still working at the Trump Corporation, meeting with the Trump Corporation, and they won’t meet with us” — came as jury selection wrapped on Friday.
A four-woman, eight-man jury was selected earlier in the week; six alternate jurors chosen on Friday. Openings have been set for Monday in the high-profile criminal trial in New York Supreme Court.
Jurors will hear that Trump’s real-estate and golf-resort empire allegedly ran a 15-year scheme to dodge payroll taxes by giving executives significant compensation in the form of untaxed “perks,” including luxury cars and rent-free Trump-branded apartments.
But jurors will also learn — from the prosecution’s own case — that at least three key DA witnesses are still being paid by Trump.
They include the prosecution’s star witness, ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s top financial executive for 30 years.
Weisselberg will testify to his role in the payroll-tax scheme as a condition of his August guilty plea and continues to meet with prosecutors ahead of his testimony, his attorney, Nicholas Gravante, told Insider on Friday.
Still, Weisselberg remains on paid leave as a Trump Organization special adviser. He also has no intention of incriminating anyone named Trump, as Insider has reported, suggesting he will testify that the alleged tax-dodge scheme stopped with him.
McConney, the company’s longtime controller, had cooperated early on with a Manhattan grand jury in exchange for a grant of immunity. But court records show that he, too, fell on his sword, also telling grand jurors that the alleged scheme stopped with him.
McConney and at least one other key DA witness also remain on the Trump payroll, Insider has learned from multiple sources.
Lead prosecutors Joshua Steinglass and Susan Hoffinger first revealed the apparently mixed loyalties of their three key witnesses while questioning prospective jurors, in asking if they could keep an open mind as they hear testimony from Weisselberg, McConney, and other prosecution witnesses still working at Trump Organization.
“Many of the witnesses still work for the Trump Organization,” Steinglass told a panel of prospective alternate jurors on Friday morning.
“Their loyalty lies with that side of the courtroom,” he said, pointing toward the defense table.
“They won’t even talk to us … we may have to push them toward the truth” during questioning, he added.
The line of questioning led defense lawyers to note that the prosecution was coming close to impeaching its own star witnesses.
Or, as one defense lawyer, William J. Brennan, put it Thursday: “The government is throwing their own witnesses under the credibility bus.”
“I mean we’re entitled to explore witnesses’ interest and bias,” Steinglass countered in arguments outside the earshot of prospective jurors, speaking to the judge presiding over the trial, state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan.
Prosecutors have the right to explore a witness’ “affiliation” during questioning, Steinglass told the judge.
“And the fact that witnesses are still working at the Trump Corporation, that they’re meeting with the Trump Corporation, they won’t meet with us … Those things go towards, you know, witness hostility, witness adversity. That’s very much ingrained in the case,” the prosecutor added.
The defense seems eager to turn the DA witnesses to their own advantage — or at least try to cast their own clouds of doubt as it suits them, including eliciting testimony that company executives felt “targeted” or “selectively prosecuted” by the DA probe.
That selective prosecution defense has been specifically banned by the judge, but defense lawyers have threatened to raise it anyway if the prosecution “opens the door” by impeaching their own witnesses, including by asking Weisselberg, McConney, and others why they are still working for Trump.
“I believe that the witnesses will say, that it’s their understanding they are still working for the Trump Corporation because they felt targeted — that the company felt targeted (by the DA’s office) and decided not to fire them,” Necheles said in court.
“If they want to go down that road – ‘why didn’t you meet with prosecutors?’ — they (the witness) may answer ‘I feel targeted. I feel like they have been threatening me and my family and everybody in the Trump Corporation.'”