Jeff McConney, a high-ranking accountant at the Trump Organization, has reportedly already testified before the special grand jury in New York that yielded a criminal indictment against the company. But as prosecutors look at additional charges, never-before-seen testimony from McConney during an earlier civil case four years ago shows that while this Trump insider quickly acknowledges when the company runs afoul of the law, he does his best to protect the boss.
Through a public records request, The Daily Beast obtained a transcript of a confidential 2017 interview between the New York attorney general’s office and McConney, who has been a controller at the Trump Organization for more than three decades.
During that interview, McConney addressed a number of scandals at the now-defunct Trump Foundation. And even though he was quick to defend Donald Trump himself, McConney showed a willingness to admit errors that could help prosecutors build their case now.
Take, for instance, the controversy over Mar-a-Lago getting hit with $120,000 in local fines and Trump using his donor-funded charity to settle a lawsuit with the town of Palm Beach, Florida.
“I probably didn't know at that time that we probably shouldn't be using foundation funds for this type of thing… we made a mistake,” McConney told a New York AG investigator.
Or the controversy over Trump’s $25,000 gift to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election effort, just months before she decided to not investigate his fraudulent Trump University.
“We found out we made the contribution to… a political organization as opposed to a charitable organization,” McConney said. “... anything and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, with this one request.”
Or the time Trump skipped a GOP debate in January 2016 to host his own televised spectacle in Iowa—a fishy fundraiser for veterans that got caught holding back donations. McConney told investigators he boarded a flight with Trump’s kids, their spouses, campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, and bodyguards.
“At that time, we thought there was a possibility of handing out checks to veterans. I had a checkbook and a pen, piece of paper to write down the contributions, if that was Mr. Trump's desire,” McConney testified under oath.
All of these recollections come from McConney’s all-day deposition on Aug. 10, 2017. He was questioned by Steven Shiffman and Peggy Farber, government lawyers with the attorney general’s charities bureau. And that investigation would eventually lead to the Trump Foundation’s demise over what the attorney general at the time, Barbara D. Underwood, called “a shocking pattern of illegality.”
In the 229-page interview transcript, McConney explained how his small team of accountants oversaw bank loan paperwork, maintained the tax files, prepared Trump's personal financial statements, and tracked the checks. But more importantly, he showed an intimate knowledge of how Trump exercised authority over his money: He doesn’t sign all the checks—just the important ones, like charitable contributions.
It’s that kind of insider knowledge—and willingness to acknowledge past errors—that could be useful to the Manhattan DA and New York AG in their joint criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.
An indictment filed on June 30 accused the company and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg of criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and scheming to defraud the government. Prosecutors claim the organization undertook a scheme to provide corporate perks like luxury apartments and private school in lieu of salary raises, allowing the company to dodge payroll taxes and letting employees avoid income taxes.
Trump himself was not criminally charged, but the indictment names an “unindicted co-conspirator #1” and the investigation is ongoing. Trump has already begun to lay the groundwork for his legal defense by publicly claiming ignorance of tax laws, despite previously boasting that he’s “king of the tax code.”
As investigators look for irregularities now, McConney’s descriptions of how the business worked then could be pivotal.
In his previous testimony during the Trump Foundation case, McConney described how he would personally put in place the financial deals that Weisselberg would negotiate.
“So he is more the initiator, I guess, and I just keep everything going after that,” McConney told investigators in 2017.
McConney’s previous testimony also describes how he would cut checks and send them straight to Trump for a signature. It also makes clear that McConney maintained the books and records for several real estate development projects including Seven Springs, the Batman-like estate north of Gotham that’s currently under investigation. The Manhattan DA and New York attorney general are exploring whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of that property for a charitable tax write-off.
McConney did not respond to an interview request for this story. The DA’s office declined to comment.
As much credibility and trust as McConney has amassed at Trump’s business empire—those who’ve worked with him commonly use phrases such as “not a blabber” and “doesn’t backstab” to describe his demeanor and conduct—the Trump Org. money man isn’t known for reveling in the same kind of glitz and chumminess that others close to Trump enjoy.
People who’ve worked with both McConney and Trump told The Daily Beast that they couldn’t recall specific instances of the then-future president making an effort to socialize with McConney. “I would never hear about Jeff getting any of the perks,” one person with knowledge of the matter said. “I [rarely, if ever] heard about Jeff going to play golf with Trump for a day, or riding on the plane.”
Still, McConney has frequently been described as not just a quiet, staunchly committed longtime employee, but also as a political admirer of former President Trump—and as someone who despises the progressive politics of Democratic leaders like Barack Obama.
That devotion to Trump, both as a boss and a political idol, is one of the reasons why the twice-impeached former president hasn’t worried much about McConney handing prosecutors a smoking gun.
According to two sources who are familiar with Trump’s private musings about McConney, the ex-president has said in the past month that there isn’t anything McConney could tell prosecutors that could bring Trump down, because, as Trump has told these sources, “I didn’t do anything [wrong].”
And yet, Trump has also hinted that, even if there were something McConney could say to badly hurt the former president, McConney wouldn’t reveal it.
“The former president thinks that Jeff worships the ground that he walks on,” said a person who’s spoken to the ex-president about McConney in the past few weeks. “Trump has said that after all he’s done for Jeff and his family, there is no reason for [McConney] to turn on him, like some other people have.”
Trump’s confidence in company stalwarts like McConney could, of course, end up being vindicated soon. However, the 45th president’s apparent faith in his loyalists and subordinates has been shattered before in recent years, including when investigators and prosecutors come knocking.
In April 2018, then-President Trump was busy rage-tweeting that Michael Cohen, his onetime fixer and personal lawyer, would not “flip” on Trump, after Cohen’s residence and office were raided by the feds. Behind closed doors, however, Trump was acknowledging that it was possible federal authorities could break Cohen, going around ominously telling confidants, “We’ll see.”
In the end, Cohen ended up a prominent Trump foe.
But prosecutors trying to leverage McConney as a witness directly against Trump might find that task difficult. The company controller told investigators in 2017 that he has remained a step removed from the former president.
“I don't usually interface with Mr. Trump,” McConney said then.
Still, McConney’s previous testimony and his knowledge of the Trump Organization could come back to bite the former president—even as he tries to protect him. In 2017, McConney acknowledged that he was responsible for cutting Trump’s personal checks.
“We paid all of his bills,” he testified.