The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has set its sights on the wealthy, elite private school where the grandchildren of a top Trump Organization executive attend, in a reported effort to force cooperation with an ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance recently issued a subpoena to Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
That subpoena reportedly targets the source of tuition payments made between 2012 and 2019. Over $500,000 worth of tuition during that time frame was paid for through checks signed by Trump or Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
An attorney for the school told the paper that tony institution makes a practice of complying with lawful subpoenas by authorites.
Jennifer Weisselberg, ex-wife to Allen Weisselberg’s son Barry Weisselberg, confirmed the lofty tuition amounts–and the source of those funds–to the Journal. Knowledge of the subpoena itself was attributed to two anonymous “people familiar with the matter.”
That WSJ story notes:
Ms. Weisselberg said she told Manhattan prosecutors that she and Barry understood the tuition payments to be part of her ex-husband’s compensation package at the Trump Organization, where he worked. Former prosecutors not involved in the probe said the Manhattan district attorney’s office could be examining whether the Weisselbergs evaded taxes with the tuition-payment arrangement.
The development was marked as a substantial one by legal experts.
“Nearly every week, there are new signs of investigators focusing on Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, and prosecutors reportedly are seeking his cooperation for Trump investigations,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington President Noah Bookbinder said in response to the news via Twitter. “Accountability may take time, but it is coming.”
Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman similarly implored patience but also hailed the DA’s move as a necessary one.
“Watch this story,” he tweeted. “Weisselberg screws seem to be tightening, and case for cooperation seems to be heating up, even if it doesn’t mean an imminent indictment. (Vance is slow, but at least this is a sign of movement).”
In late March, sources close to the Manhattan prosecutor tipped their hands and revealed that Vance’s office had launched an all-out effort to obtain Weisselberg’s cooperation against Trump by questioning a series of high-priced gifts he and his family received over the years from the 45th president.
One such subpoena made its way to Jennifer Weisselberg, the CFO’s former daughter-in-law, who happily complied with the request for documents.
“We can confirm that Jennifer is cooperating with prosecutors and has been turning over documents to them,” her attorney, Duncan Levin, told the Journal in April. “She will continue to turn over any documents they request that are relevant to the investigation.”
One of those documents was culled from the divorce proceedings between Barry and Jennifer–and directly addresses the tuition payments.
“Absent this financial assistance, [Barry] could not afford private school,” the financial statement obtained by the Journal says.
In a lengthy profile of Vance published by the New Yorker in March, Jennifer Weisselberg recounted first meeting Trump at a shiva at Allen Weisselberg’s house in Long Island. The shiva, a seven-day Jewish mourning ritual for the dead, reportedly took place in 2004, before Jennifer Weisselberg’s marriage to her now-ex-husband Barry Weisselberg. Trump pulled up at the event from his limousine and showed the attendees photographs of naked women with him on a yacht, Jennifer Weisselberg told the magazine.
Allen Weisselberg responded to the incident by humoring his boss, his former daughter-in-law told The New Yorker.
[image via Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images]
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