“Isn’t that illegal or something?”
By Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump got a metaphoric punch in the gut when his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, released a secret recording of a conversation the two had about paying to silence a former Playboy model over an alleged affair. For a sitting president concerned about words like “campaign-finance violations” and “bank fraud,” the tapes, of which there are apparently 100, were an unwelcome surprise—a surprise he naturally ranted about on Twitter, suggesting the recording cut off before it could get to all of the “presumably . . . positive things” he was saying, as if, after their hush-money chat, Trump went on to extoll civil rights and world peace. But if the tapes were a punch in the stomach, the news on Thursday that the Trump Organization’s veteran chief financial officer has been ordered to spill his guts before a grand jury was the equivalent of being kneed in the undercarriage while doubled over coughing up blood.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Allen Weisselberg, the “longtime financial gatekeeper” for Trump, has been subpoenaed by prosecutors with the Southern District of New York to testify in the criminal probe of the president’s ex-lawyer and so-called “fixer.” Having one’s C.F.O. answer questions in a case related to hush-money payments to bury alleged affairs would be an unhappy turn of events for anyone. But given Weisselberg’s unique position in the firm, Trump is probably extra jumpy about the situation. Weisselberg has been described as “the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.” He, along with the Brothers Trump, is running the company for however long this administration lasts. Weisselberg has been with the family since he worked for Fred Trump’s real-estate firm in the 1980s, later joining the Trump Organization, where he answered directly to Donald, and reportedly performed tasks such as arranging checks” for Trump to sign. Crucially, he oversaw many of the now-president’s personal financial dealings, including “paying household expenses as well as the purchases of boats, planes, or other personal properties.” He’s also one of the few people who’ve gotten a look at Trump’s tax returns, having prepared them at least through the financial crisis if not longer. (Neither Weisselberg nor the Trump Organization responded to the Journal’s request for comment.)
In other words, this guy knows where all of the bodies are buried, a point a source confirmed to MSNBC’s Katy Tur:
In other words, he knows about every time Trump expensed a case of Just for Men. He knows, one would assume, about all the contractors Trump has screwed over the years. When a young Trump made the driver sent to fetch him from military school pull over for a hoagie on I-95, Weisselberg knew about it, and he’s probably still got the receipt. If Trump set a mistress up with a two-bedroom condo in New Jersey, visited her on Tuesdays after taping The Apprentice, and complained about her not tidying up first—we’re not saying he did, but if he did—Weisselberg would know. And he may also be able to shed some light about payments made to various women Trump may have wanted to keep quiet:
Last year, Mr. Weisselberg arranged for the Trump Organization to pay Mr. Cohen, who had in October 2016 made a $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, a former adult-film actress who claimed she had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier and agreed to remain quiet about it. Mr. Weisselberg didn’t know about the payment to Ms. Clifford, who goes professionally by Stormy Daniels, when he agreed to a $35,000 monthly retainer for Mr. Cohen, according to a person familiar with Mr. Weisselberg’s thinking.
The other instance emerged this week, in a released audio recording of a September 2016 conversation between Messrs. Trump and Cohen in which the two men discussed buying the rights to a former Playboy model’s story of another affair with Mr. Trump.
In the recording, which Mr. Cohen secretly made and which is under review by federal investigators, Mr. Cohen said he would set up a company to make the payment, adding, “I’ve spoken with Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” before Mr. Trump interrupts him.
Later in the conversation, Mr. Cohen reiterates that he “spoke with Allen” about the plan to finance the payment.
While it’s not clear if Cohen actually spoke to Weisselberg about plans to buy the rights to Karen McDougal’s story, it would stand to reason that a great deal of the Trunp Organization’s financial doings first came under the nose of this particular C.F.O.
Trump has said his “red line” in the Mueller investigation would be the special prosecutor looking into his personal finances unrelated to Russia. But the two probes can and have shared information with each other—and if anyone is going to reveal potentially actionable intel, it’s the guy who’s got all of Trump’s receipts.
If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.