Allen Weisselberg, longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
Weisselberg got a pass from facing charges by reportedly “providing information about Michael Cohen in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Scrutiny of Weisselberg, “should worry the president,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien wrote earlier this year. “If he winds up in investigators’ crosshairs for secreting payoffs, he could potentially provide much more damaging information to prosecutors than [Michael] Cohen ever could about the president’s dealmaking.”
Cohen, the president’s onetime personal attorney, implicated Trump in criminal activity while pleading guilty to two felony violations of federal campaign finance law this week. Cohen admitted paying an adult film star “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Trump, to ensure her silence.
The Trump Organization paid Cohen $420,000 in monthly installments fraudulently billed as “legal services,” according to the federal case against him. Trump’s unwillingness to disclose his personal tax returns, as previous presidents have, has sparked rampant speculation about other financial misdeeds at the company. Fusion GPS, the consultancy that wrote the “Steele Dossier” about Trump, has alleged there is “widespread evidence” linking the Trump Organization to “dubious Russians” that raise questions about money-laundering.
When corporate fraud is probed, CFOs are often key figures in criminal schemes, as Jason Karaian, Quartz’s finance and economics editor and author of a book on CFOs, points out.
At least three key associates of Trump are now cooperating with authorities. In addition to Cohen and Weisselberg, David Pecker—CEO of the company that publishes the National Enquirer— is also cooperating with prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, according to multiple reports. Pecker helped to hide two women’s allegations that they had affairs with Trump, according to the case against Cohen.
Trump has spent the week railing against Cohen for his plea bargain, saying the practice of offering immunity to witnesses “almost ought to be illegal.”
Weisselberg, in addition to serving as Trump’s CFO, oversees the president’s personal finances as a trustee for his financial assets while he’s in office. Let’s see how long that lasts.