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Deposition of Trump Org CFO looms in DC lawsuit accusing Trump 2017 inauguration committee of abusing funds

Documents due in DC Superior Court on Friday could clear the way for the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer to be deposed as part of a DC attorney general lawsuit that alleges former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee abused non-profit funds.

The CFO, Allen Weisselberg, is already at the center of two investigations in New York: the state attorney general’s office has opened a criminal tax investigation into Weisselberg, people familiar with the investigation said, while prosecutors at the Manhattan district attorney’s office are digging into his role at the Trump Organization as part of a criminal investigation into the company, Trump, its executives and the Trump family, the people said.

The DC lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Karl Racine in January 2020, accuses the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee of coordinating with the former President’s family to “grossly overpay” for event space for inauguration events in January 2017 at the Trump International Hotel in DC.

Weisselberg’s name has surfaced in recent court filings, and now DC prosecutors are working to determine why he was pulled into a review of the inaugural committee’s financial records despite having no known affiliation with the inauguration.

In emails disclosed in a May 2020 court filing, Weisselberg was contacted by the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee’s then-deputy chair Rick Gates on April 19, 2017, who later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gates introduced Weisselberg to Doug Ammerman, the committee’s treasurer, via email and told Ammerman: “Please reach out to Allen to walk him through the auditing process for PIC and the activities that were conducted throughout the project.”

The existence of these emails was first reported by Mother Jones.

The emails were sent the same day that the committee filing with the Federal Election Commission — which details it raised a record $107 million — became public, spurring news articles that identified major donors and raised questions about how the haul was spent and what would go to charity.

A person familiar with the arrangement said that Trump, aware of the press, told Tom Barrack, then chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, to send all the records to Weisselberg for review. Barrack gave Gates the assignment, this person said.

A subsequent email sent about a half hour later from Weisselberg to Gates and Ammerman requested “the latest report reflecting all revenue broken down by its sources as well as a detailed distribution schedule by vendor … ,” according to court documents.

The DC attorney general lawsuit alleges that the committee improperly used funds to host a private party at the Trump International Hotel, and wasted about $1 million in charitable funds by overpaying for event space at the hotel.

Prosecutors at the attorney general’s office also allege that the inaugural committee paid nearly $50,000 for a block of rooms reserved by the Trump Organization at the Loews Madison hotel. In March, prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate inconsistencies in testimony relating to the invoice for that hotel room block.

“Upon reviewing the PIC’s budget reports, Mr. Weisselberg would have seen that the PIC had funds leftover,” the court filing said. “The decision for the Trump Organization to punt its debts to the Loews Madison over to the PIC occurred in July 2017, after Mr. Weisselberg had reviewed the PIC’s financials. As a de facto representative of Donald Trump’s business interests during the relevant period, Mr. Weisselberg may have information relevant to why the PIC’s funds were used to pay a debt of the Trump family business.”

A lawyer for Weisselberg declined to comment. The Trump Organization has asked the judge to rule in its favor, said the attorney general failed to “adduce any competent evidence” and called the allegations “frequently fanciful.” A lawyer for the company declined to comment.

The DC Attorney General’s Office first said in March that it wanted to depose Weisselberg as part of its review of the inaugural committee’s finances, but it agreed to wait for the judge to rule on motions for summary judgment.

The final documents related to those motions are due Friday. Sometime after that deadline, the judge will rule on the outstanding motions and decide whether to reopen the discovery window to allow Weisselberg’s deposition.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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