Enjoying an outdoor lunch with a friend on a gorgeous day in April, I noticed a woman across the restaurant’s patio lugging around three suitcases and an adorable puppy. She was trying, and failing, to charge her phone at an outlet and was growing increasingly upset. In sweatpants, her frosted blond hair piled on top of her head, she looked like an Upper West Side mom having an extremely rough day. I apologized to my friend for semi-ignoring him as I got more distracted by the plight of the golden retriever, which was alternately straining to get away and trying to comfort its frazzled mama.
“Let me hold on to her while you go inside and do what you need to do,” I eventually pleaded with the woman, as she realized her phone wasn’t charging at the outdoor outlet. She thanked me profusely, left me her four-month-old puppy, Willow, and went inside. Willow tried to eat my friend’s hamburger, but then settled for water and lay down at my feet.
Be it established: I am a dog lover more than a humanitarian. It was only when Willow’s human came back for her, after about 45 minutes, that I recognized her absolute distress. My friend and I asked her if she was OK. She said no. After a bit, she told us through tears that she was a witness in a case against Donald Trump and that she had just been evicted from her apartment around the corner. Suddenly I recognized her. She was the ex-wife of Barry Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Organization’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg. She had provided documents from her divorce to prosecutors and the media. The astonishing September fraud judgment against the Trump Organization, Trump himself, and his two adult sons resulted in sanctions that included Allen Weisselberg.
“You’re Jennifer Weisselberg!” I exclaimed. (Not a humanitarian; definitely a Trump news junkie.) She seemed surprised but gratified that I knew her name. I immediately told her I was a reporter but would keep her plight confidential, unless she said otherwise. She thanked me and explained that she was under a gag order in a child custody battle, so she couldn’t say much—though she hinted that the eviction was retaliation for speaking up against Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization’s business practices. She seemed to want to keep talking, so I gave her my phone number. At first, she didn’t call. I kept thinking about Willow. And also, I’ll admit, about the fragile, distraught woman taking care of the dog.
After more than a month, Jennifer reached out to me. Her gag order no longer mattered to her, she said, although she still couldn’t discuss custody issues. She wanted to tell her story. [Continue reading…]