It’s September 2015, and Donald Trump is breezing through Trump Tower, showing off its stunning views of the New York City skyline. In the distance stands 40 Wall Street, which the real estate mogul is zeroing in on at the moment. “By the way,” he says, turning to his right-hand man, “You know what the mortgage is? The mortgage is paying, what, 2.5%?”
“Yeah, that’s what we get,” his lieutenant dutifully replies. “It’s very low.”
Trump, three months into his bid for president, is waging a different campaign on this day—to get Forbes to place him as high as possible on The Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people. Which explains why he’s so eager to boast about something as small as his low interest rate. Never mind the facts—it’s actually 3.665%, not 2.5%.
Trump has long been accustomed to lying about his finances. And for years, his charade has relied on the support of his best soldier: Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer. To those familiar with Weisselberg’s role, it’s not that surprising that the CFO is now reportedly facing an indictment for alleged financial crimes. (Weisselberg did not respond to a request for comment.)
For nearly 50 years, Weisselberg has worked with Trump, tending to his money and, when times got tough, renegotiating payments. The two businessmen aren’t necessarily similar—Trump loves to be the center of attention and ramble on endlessly, while Weisselberg is known for moving behind the scenes and speaking succinctly. But they’ve long teamed up, including on a persistent effort to convince Forbes that Trump is richer than he actually is.
Over the years reporters have sparred with Weisselberg during countless phone calls and sit downs, and even over lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the 1990s. But in 2015, in the middle of the presidential race that would vault Trump to the White House, Weisselberg and his boss went all in, hosting two editors and one reporter at Trump Tower for nearly two hours to rant about the Trump Organization’s assets, with little allegiance to the facts—all while multiple recorders captured the conversation for posterity.
As Trump lied freely and recklessly, Weisselberg lied mostly to back up his boss. “We’ll make at least $75 million this year,” Trump said at one point, referring to his Miami golf resort, Doral. “Yeah,” Weisselberg was quick to affirm, even though the resort was on track to earn only $13.8 million, according to documents the Trump Organization later submitted to local authorities.
Read More (...)