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Trump Organization lawyers put former CFO Allen Weisselberg's plea deal in the spotlight

Weisselberg testifies in Trump Organization trial
Allen Weisselberg testifies in Trump Organization trial 04:05

Attorneys in the Trump Organization's criminal trial sought Friday to drum up doubts about a plea deal struck by the prosecution's key witness.

Former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was charged along with two Trump Organization entities in July 2021 with more than a dozen counts related to fraud and tax evasion. Weisselberg entered a guilty plea in the case in August. Prosecutors for the Manhattan district attorney agreed to recommend a five-month jail sentence, and repayment of back taxes, in exchange for Weisselberg's testimony against the company at trial.

Trump Organization Ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg
Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg leaves the courtroom for a lunch recess during the Trump Organization's criminal trial at the New York Supreme Court on Nov. 17, 2022 in New York City.  Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

Defense attorney Alan Futerfas asked Weisselberg on Friday, "To get that five month sentence you had to plead guilty to every charge in that indictment?" 

"Correct, which I was guilty of," replied Weisselberg.

Later, another attorney, Susan Necheles, hit at a 17-page-long list of questions Weisselberg had to answer in court when he entered his guilty plea — a process called allocution.

"You're worried as you sit there today that if you change one word of what the prosecutors asked they might" recommend lengthening your sentence, Necheles said.

Weisselberg responded that he had been instructed to testify truthfully.

"In your mind you're worried about your sentence right?" Necheles asked.

"Naturally," Weisselberg said.

Questioning Weisselberg for a second time this week, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger sought to establish that members of the Trump family had some awareness of Weisselberg's tax scheme, in which he and allegedly other executives received luxury benefits and hefty bonuses, and then reduced the salary and income by the amount of those bonuses when they reported to tax authorities. 

Weisselberg said Friday that practice also helped the company, lowering its payroll obligations.

Weisselberg said Eric Trump only became aware of the practices when they were ceased, due to an internal review of the company's tax practices — referred throughout the trial as a "clean up" — conducted after Donald Trump became president. At the time, Eric Trump was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company.

On Thursday, Weisselberg testified under prosecutor questioning that former President Trump, or at times his sons Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr., signed checks to pay up to $100,000 for private school tuition for Weisselberg's grandchildren. Weisselberg said he paid the money back by instructing the company's controller to deduct the $100,000 from his salary, allowing him to report a smaller income. 

Both sides have frequently mentioned Weisselberg's close, decades-long relationship with the Trump family and Trump Organization. On Friday, Hoffinger once again highlighted that the relationship remains close.

Hoffinger asked Weisselberg who is paying for his legal team, who she described as "some of the best lawyers in New York City."

"The Trump Organization," he replied.

She then asked if he had met with a Trump Organization defense attorney, Alan Futerfas, on Wednesday.

Weisselberg replied that he had.

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