Prosecutors in New York have sent a subpoena to a private school in Manhattan attended by the grandchildren of Trump Organisation chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg as part of their ongoing investigation into former president Donald Trump.
Between 2012 and 2019, more than half a million dollars of the children’s tuition was paid for with checks signed by either Mr Weisselberg or Mr Trump, according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal.
Jennifer Weisselberg, the former wife of Mr Weisselberg’s son Barry, told The Journal that she divulged to Manhattan prosecutors that she and her ex-husband believed the tuition checks were part of his compensation package from his employer, the Trump Organisation.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office led by Cyrus Vance Jr has been trying to get Mr Weisselberg to cooperate for months. He’s the Trump Organisation’s financial guard and is considered to be a confidante of Mr Trump. Mr Weisselberg himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The DA’s office has that it’s investigating Mr Trump and his company for possible financial or insurance fraud, as well as hush money payments made to women on Mr Trump’s behalf.
Mr Trump has previously called the investigation a witch hunt, arguing that it’s politically motivated.
Prosecutors have also subpoenaed lenders, an insurance intermediary and others for financial information about Trump properties in New York City, in Westchester County just north of the city, and in other locations.
Frank Perrone Jr, a lawyer for Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, told The Journal that it’s standard practice for the school to comply with all lawful requests from the authorities.
The school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has around 1,300 students ranging from prekindergarten to high school. Tuition was more than $50,000 this year.
Ms Weisselberg told The Journal that neither she nor her ex-husband ever paid tuition for their children and that some checks she handed to the school were signed by Mr Trump. She added that other checks, starting around 2015, were signed by her father-in-law, Allen Weisselberg.
Prosecutors subpoenaed Ms Weisselberg last month, requesting documents stemming from her divorce, including tax records and financial statements. Divorce documents from Barry Weisselberg state that his parents pay his children’s tuition.
“Absent this financial assistance, [Barry] could not afford private school,” the documents state.
Tax records from the split show that Barry Weisselberg earned $223,000 in 2019. He said in the 2018 divorce proceedings that he didn’t know if Mr Trump had personally paid for household, family or personal expenses during his marriage. He said various expenses paid by his father were “financial assistance,” and not gifts or loans.
But The Journal reported that the family sees the payments as gifts.
When the Trumps lived in New York City, Mr Trump’s youngest son Barron attended Columbia prep. The Trump Foundation, the now-closed charity, donated $150,000 to the school in 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to tax records.
Allen Weisselberg served as the treasurer of the foundation, which was dissolved after allegations it had misused funds to further the interests of Mr Trump.
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer and fixer for Mr Trump, was once the chairman of the school’s board. Mr Cohen was convicted of several crimes including campaign finance violations and is serving the rest of his sentence in home confinement.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation for comment.