Federal prosecutors in Manhattan struck a deal earlier this summer with Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, granting him immunity for his grand jury testimony about Michael D. Cohen, a person briefed on the arrangement said Friday.
News of Mr. Weisselberg’s testimony came days after Mr. Cohen said Mr. Trump had directed him to commit campaign finance crimes and one day after another Trump loyalist, the tabloid executive David Pecker, was revealed to have agreed to help prosecutors in their case.
The person briefed on the deal said that it was narrow in scope, protecting Mr. Weisselberg from self-incrimination in sharing information with prosecutors about Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to tax and campaign finance charges. The latter charges stemmed from payments during the campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. It was not, the person said, a blanket immunity extending beyond the information he shared, and Mr. Weisselberg remains in his job at the Trump Organization.
Mr. Weisselberg figured into the charges filed against Mr. Cohen this week, having facilitated the processing of what prosecutors described as “sham invoices” at the Trump Organization, through which Mr. Cohen was reimbursed for the money he had paid to quiet one of the women alleging an affair with Mr. Trump, the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford.
According to court documents, starting in January 2017, Mr. Weisselberg directed the processing of monthly payments to Mr. Cohen, which totaled $420,000 and were at least partly drawn from a Trump trust.
Mr. Weisselberg did not respond to a request for comment. His deal with prosecutors was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday. The New York Times and others reported last month that Mr. Weisselberg had been called to testify, and the immunity deal was tied to the testimony.
Mr. Weisselberg’s name surfaced prominently in July, when Mr. Cohen, through his lawyer, made public a recording of a conversation he had in September 2016 with Mr. Trump about buying the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. Ms. McDougal alleges that she had an affair with Mr. Trump and that The National Enquirer bought the rights to her story for $150,000.
According to the recording, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Trump that, in order to buy those rights from the magazine, he needed to form a company, making a reference to Mr. Weisselberg’s guidance.
“I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Mr. Cohen told Mr. Trump. Later, he added, “I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time to the financing.”
Mr. Weisselberg has worked for the Trumps for decades, starting as an accountant for Mr. Trump’s father and providing him a deep relationship with the family and a broad view of its business. Mr. Weisselberg was among the small cadre of executives who worked closely with Mr. Trump at the Trump Organization. He was the point person on all things financial, with a particular understanding of how the various Trump businesses interacted. Like others in the Trump orbit, he appeared on the reality television show “The Apprentice.”
In 2016, Mr. Weisselberg discussed the financial workings of the Trump Organization with The Times, explaining its debts and processes, and opining that, despite his holdings, Mr. Trump should not be held to the same standards that might apply to the heads of companies in highly regulated industries.
“If you take away all the fancy stuff and so on and so forth, and the five-star ratings, you are basically down to a closely held family-run business that is fundamentally different from IBM or Exxon,” Mr. Weisselberg said then, quoting an email from Donald F. McGahn, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who advised Mr. Trump on his federal filing during the campaign and became White House counsel.
More than a decade ago, Mr. Weisselberg sat down with a New York Times reporter at Trump Tower to discuss Mr. Trump’s net worth, claiming that it was $6 billion. When the reporter, who was working on a book about Mr. Trump, challenged that the numbers Mr. Weisselberg presented did not add up, he advised, “I’m going to go to my office and find that other billion.”
Published at Sat, 25 Aug 2018 12:34:37 +0000