The defense presented its case at Donald Trump’s financial fraud trial on Monday, with the Trump Organization’s longtime controller taking the witness stand. Jeffrey McConney, who is also a defendant in the $250 million lawsuit, continued to downplay his role in the fraudulent financial statements that are central to the case. He shifted the blame onto the company’s outside accountants, specifically Donald Bender from the Mazars accounting firm. McConney claimed that they provided everything Bender asked for and relied on him for a lot.
According to New York Attorney General Tish James’ case, McConney played a pivotal role in a scheme to falsely inflate Trump’s bottom line by billions in order to profit illegally in business deals. As the deputy to ex-Trump Org finance chief Allen Weisselberg, McConney prepared the calculations behind the figures in yearly statements that tallied Trump’s net worth from 2011 to 2017. He supervised and approved the process after Trump was elected until his retirement in 2022.
The data spreadsheets created by McConney, known as “Jeff Supporting Data,” are described in the AG’s case as a key part of the fraud committed by Trump and his associates. After calculating the numbers with input from Trump’s children, McConney provided them to Mazars to format into statements used in loan applications and other lucrative deals.
Trump and his co-defendants have tried to shift blame onto Bender, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing. They also previously blamed Bender when Weisselberg and the company faced charges of tax fraud in a separate scheme, which resulted in their convictions last year.
During his testimony, Bender stated that Mazars was hired to compile Trump’s internal figures, not to audit them. He also mentioned that Trump’s executives did not provide all the necessary documents for compilation.
When asked if he ever hid anything from Bender, McConney responded with a “no.” He also mentioned that Mazars would review the data by going through the footnotes and making necessary changes. McConney claimed to have spent very little time working on the statements outside of July and October.
Judge Arthur Engoron, in a pretrial ruling, found McConney, Weisselberg, Trump, and his sons Eric and Don Jr. liable for widespread fraud. The judge is now considering the remaining claims made by the AG, which include allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and the amount of money Trump and his team illegally made by lying about his net worth. Evidence presented by the AG showed that banks lost over $300 million in interest due to the fraudulent statements.
McConney is expected to continue his testimony on Tuesday and will face cross-examination. Trump’s lawyers have called several witnesses, including Don Jr., who also blamed the outside accountants. Trump, who is currently facing multiple criminal cases and lawsuits, denies all wrongdoing. He has not attended his lawyers’ defense case. The defense’s main arguments revolve around the idea that valuing buildings is subjective and that banks and lenders benefited from doing business with Trump.
In response to testimony from Trump’s expert witnesses, who claimed that the company’s valuation method was standard, AG James tweeted that their testimony should be taken with skepticism. She pointed out that some of these experts are longtime friends and golf buddies of Trump, with one even making significant donations to his campaign and having his son get married at Mar-a-Lago.