Allen Weisselberg, the indicted former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, will be deposed in Washington, D.C. as part of an investigation by the attorney general’s office there into allegations that the 45th president’s inaugural committee engaged in various forms of waste and self-dealing with non-profit funds.
In a Thursday hearing, D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams noted that the questioning of Weisselberg would be “very limited.”
“I’m not expecting there to be a fishing expedition,” the judge said.
In January 2020, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine sued two of then-President Donald Trump’s businesses and his inaugural committee over allegations the businesses overcharged the inaugural committee and that the non-profit committee itself went on to break the law by agreeing to pay above-market rates for the use of a hotel ballroom and for wasting upwards of $1 million.
“My office is committed to standing up against corruption and abuses of public trust,” Racine said in a statement on Thursday. “That’s why we investigate, and, when the facts reveal flagrant violations of law, we sue. We look forward to proving our case in court. Cheaters should never prosper.”
Additionally, Racine alleges the Trump Organization reserved a block of rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel in the downtown area of the district. Over a dozen people did not show up, however, and the Trump Organization allegedly failed to pay the bill–for just under $50,000. That bill eventually went to collections, the AG says, and was picked up by the non-profit inaugural committee in violation of the law.
The committee-footed bill is an example of how Trump’s family essentially used the inaugural committee as their own slush fund, according to the attorney general.
“The Trump Organization was liable for the invoiced charges,” a January 2021 filing alleges. “The [non-profit committee’s] payment of the invoice was unfair, unreasonable, and unjustified, and ultimately conferred [an] improper private benefit to the Trump Organization.”
The Trump Organization had earlier moved to keep Weisselberg out of this litigation.
“He seems to have nothing to do with the [hotel], they just seem to want to depose Mr. Weisselberg… for I don’t know what reason,” Trump Organization lawyer Rebecca Woods said during the hearing.
But, Racine had previously argued, Weisselberg did likely play at least some role.
“As a de facto representative of Donald Trump’s business interests during the relevant period, Mr. Weisselberg may have information relevant to why the [non-profit committee’s] funds were used to pay a debt of the Trump family business,” an earlier filing argued.
Notably, Racine’s office also noted, Weisselberg was asked to review the non-profit committee’s records in 2017, despite his prior lack of affiliation with the that legal entity or its business.
Weisselberg is currently facing his own prosecution on charges of tax fraud conspiracy in New York City. The former CFO was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury last summer.
On Thursday, the court also signed off on a “limited document request” for materials reviewed and “relied” upon by Donald Trump, Jr. during his Feb. 11, 2021, deposition in the case.
After legal wrangling, a court gave the go-ahead for the lawsuit to move forward in September 2020, ruling against Trump’s bid to have the proceedings dismissed. Progress has been slow since then.
In November 2021, another judge dismissed the Trump Organization as a defendant in the case based on Racine’s failure to depose two individuals who know the Trump family. Earlier this week, Judge Williams reinstated the Trump Organization as a defendant, finding that the other judge had erred because additional discovery requests were still pending.
Discovery is expected to be voluminous in the D.C. case.
The trial is currently slated for September of this year.
[image via Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images]
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