Donald Trump once said that he based his net worth on his “feelings” to some extent, and that he placed the “best spin” on some of the properties.
The value of their properties, “I think everyone.” “Who’dn’t it?”
Have the values inflated? “Not without cause,” Trump said, insisting he provided his “opinion” to a key partner and “ultimately,” according to an exchange in a statement from 2007, allowed the person to decide.
This Spring, when prosecutors in Manhattan investigate whether Trump’s best spin in local real-estate circles is a common practice — or whether he is crossing the line into illegal business activities.
The response will decide whether Trump is charged with a crime. The public record already shows a great deal about Trump’s control of the Trump Organization. According to a CNN analysis of sworn depositions, interviews with former employees, and published accounts, Trump has consistently attempted to blame his chief financial officer for his valuation decisions.
At the same time, the records and depositions seem to indicate that, despite Trump’s claims that he delegated valuation decisions to others, he was heavily involved in the operation of his company.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is scouring millions of pages of Trump’s personal and business tax returns and related documents, interviewing lenders, and hiring forensic accountants as part of his investigation. Prosecutors are looking at the integrity of Trump’s financial statements, among other things, as part of a broad inquiry. Former attorneys argue it’s impossible to bring a lawsuit because investigators will have to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that officials tried to defraud others by making false statements.
The office of Vance has declined to comment. Requests for comment were not answered by the Trump Organisation.
The Trump Organization’s members have publicly claimed that they did nothing wrong and paid all taxes due.
Requests for comment from Trump’s spokesperson were not returned. The investigation has been branded a “partisan witch hunt” by Trump, who says Michael Cohen’s accusations of asset inflating are baseless.
Trump’s own remarks draw attention to Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, a former Trump family associate.
People familiar with the investigation believe prosecutors are attempting to coerce Weisselberg into cooperating against his long-time employer. According to a source familiar with the situation, they are also getting support from a former insider: Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, who has met with prosecutors eight times. According to Cohen, he and Weisselberg would “juice” the values of Trump’s properties before they reached an amount that suited Trump’s ego. Weisselberg’s lawyer refused to comment for this article.
The 2007 deposition sheds light on Trump’s relationship with Weisselberg, a company veteran of more than 40 years, as well as the inner workings of the Trump Organization, a company whose persona is elevated by its founder’s persona but which is, at its root, a family-run business.
Unlike several other firms, the Trump Company has a low employee turnover rate. After working for Trump’s father, Fred Trump, in the 1970s, Weisselberg entered the company. Others in the finance and legal divisions have worked with the organization for decades, and those who have left have refused to talk with CNN about it.
Barbara Res, who served as an executive vice president at the Trump Organization from 1980 to 1991, said Weisselberg was a nice guy to work with “The bills were paid, and the rentals were received. He wasn’t a member of the inner circle.”
Weisselberg, who worked on the 26th floor of Trump Tower across the hall from Trump, rose through the ranks of the organization. He relocated from a modest Long Island home to a Manhattan apartment in a Trump-branded building. His son has joined the firm. He purchased a home near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. According to two people familiar with their relationship, he often flew down on Trump’s private plane on winter weekends.