As the New York Attorney General’s bank fraud trial against Donald Trump dragged on for its eighth week on Tuesday, one-time Trump Organization accountant Jeffrey McConney took the witness stand and actually cried. But even though McConney made it clear he is tired of being the former president’s fall guy, they weren’t tears of regret.
Instead, McConney bemoaned the way law enforcement keeps targeting him to get to his former boss.
“I'm an honest person,” he mumbled through tears, looking back glowingly on his time at the famous real estate company. “I got to do things that a normal accountant wouldn't be able to do… I'm very proud of the work I did in the 35 years.”
He listed all the ways prosecutors have squeezed him for answers in the past five years, lamenting how he’s been subpoenaed by the feds, compelled to testify at the Manhattan District Attorney’s tax fraud trial against the company last year, and forced to appear at the New York Attorney General’s ongoing bank fraud trial.
But when speaking to a friendly defense lawyer, McConney said nothing damning against the Trump Organization. Instead, he boringly described documents for hours.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused McConney of helping the Trump family and former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg—once his direct supervisor—of faking business paperwork to score better deals from banks and insurance companies.
“I just want to relax... and stop being accused of misrepresenting assets with the company that I was working for,” he wailed. “I think everything was justified… I feel proud of what I did.”
The unexpected show of emotion was sparked by a question from defense lawyer Jesus M. Suarez, who asked why McConney no longer works at the company.
The detailed answer is, of course, quite telling.
For years, McConney was the trusty Trump Organization controller, overseeing mundane internal finances and approving all kinds of checks made out by the billionaire himself. But that role also included overseeing Trump’s more questionable activities. Court records from previous court cases show that he played an integral part in Trump’s ploy to direct charitable funds to then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a scheme that eventually cost Trump his charity when the New York AG shut it down.
The Manhattan DA’s trial last year exposed the way McConney helped executives dodge taxes, with him admitting with a smirk beneath his white mustache that he “tried to help them in any way I could… with some suggestions.” The company was convicted on all counts and fined $1.6 million.
But that was no thanks to McConney. The accountant actually tried to absorb all the blame and chalk it all up to personal “mistakes.” A juror later told The Daily Beast that the jury quickly grew tired of his antics after fully realizing “that he was stonewalling the prosecution and just could not say enough for the defense.”
McConney played the same know-nothing role when AG lawyers last month grilled him on his role in the alleged bank and insurance fraud plot, which involved nearly a dozen real estate projects over the course of a decade.
The retired accountant had a much easier time on the witness stand Monday and Tuesday, as he was now fielding softball questions from defense lawyers.
The tale of his departure from the Trump Organization glossed over another important fact: McConney left the company shortly before the AG’s trial, but only after receiving the promise of a $500,000 severance package.
When state investigators questioned him in court on Oct. 5, McConney revealed that he’d already received $375,000 but was still owed $125,000. That monetary arrangement raises obvious red flags, given the concern that his former employer may still have considerable influence over a witness in the case.
The situation mirrors the deal that McConney’s former supervisor, Weisselberg, had when he was forced to testify at the DA’s criminal trial last year.
It was only when Weisselberg was on the witness stand that the world first heard that the “fired” CFO was actually still getting paid, earning the same $640,000 annual salary and getting the same $500,000 yearly bonus—including a payout that he admitted happily looking forward to receiving shortly after that trial. At the time, former prosecutors who spoke to The Daily Beast derided it as a blatant strategy to keep Trump’s trusted lieutenants in line.
On Tuesday, McConney quickly recovered his composure before getting follow-up questions from Andrew Amer, special litigation counsel for the attorney general. And McConney went right back to claiming ignorance when asked about contradictions in his testimony.
On Monday, McConney asserted that outside hired accountants at the firm Mazars USA wrote a particular paragraph in Trump’s 2015 financial statement that was full of caveats. It neatly supported the defense team’s attempt to shed any personal blame by creating distance between Trump and certain details in the billionaire’s vastly inflated personal financial statements.
But on cross-examination on Tuesday, Amer pulled up an image on the screen facing the courtroom—and pointed out that McConney had scribbled down the very same paragraph in blue pen.
The handwritten note touted the tycoon’s “brand value” and the way it “afforded Mr. Trump the opportunity to participate in licensing deals around the globe as reflected on the balance sheet herein.”
When Amer probed him about it, McConney went right back to his old self; he doesn’t remember who wrote it.