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The Trump Organization could be opened up to further legal action after Michael Cohen saga

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Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen.
Drew
Angerer/Getty Images


  • President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael
    Cohen’s plea agreement could open up a new legal front
    involving the Trump Organization.
  • Prosecutors laid out how executives at Trump’s
    business helped reimburse Cohen for the “election-related
    expenses” and labeled the payments as legal fees.
  • Experts said this could open up a couple of new
    fronts.

There could be a new round of legal headaches for the Trump
Organization after a pair of unnamed employees were listed in the
charges pressed against President Donald Trump’s former longtime
lawyer Michael Cohen by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern
District of New York.

Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to five counts
of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a
financial institution, and two counts related to campaign-finance
violations. Cohen said under oath that Trump directed him to
violate campaign-finance laws just before the 2016 presidential
election in order to boost his candidacy.

The latter two charges were in connection to payments to the
former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn actress Stormy
Daniels to silence their allegations of affairs with Trump.

In the information made public by
federal prosecutors
, they laid out how executives at Trump’s
business helped reimburse Cohen for the “election-related
expenses.” According to the court filings, Cohen submitted an
invoice in January 2017 requesting $180,000 — which included
$130,000 for the payment he facilitated to Daniels and $50,000
for “tech services.” 

The Trump Organization officials listed in the filings allegedly
inflated that total to $420,000, which would be paid to Cohen in
installments of $35,000, a monthly retainer fee throughout 2017.

The company accounted for those monthly payments as legal
expenses, according to the court filing.

“In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and
the monthly invoices Cohen submitted were not in connection with
any legal services he had provided in 2017,” prosecutors wrote.

Though the two executives named in the document were not named,
many were quick to point to Allen Weisselberg, the Trump
Organization’s chief financial officer, as likely to be one of
the two. 


Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
Kevin
Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images


Last month, Weisselberg found himself dragged into the Cohen
saga after his attorney, Lanny Davis, released an audio recording
Cohen made of a conversation with Trump in September 2016. In the
recording, which Cohen apparently made without Trump’s knowledge,
the two men discuss buying the rights to McDougal’s story. 

Cohen mentioned Weisselberg at
a couple of key points
 during the
recording, which was seized by the FBI in its April raids of
Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room as part of the
investigation.

Soon after, it was reported that Weisselberg
was summoned
to testify before a grand jury in the Cohen
investigation.

Experts said the section highlighting the actions of the two
Trump Organization executives could pose legal problems for the
company.

Jenny Johnson Ware, partner at the Chicago tax litigation firm
Johnson Moore, said the allegations made by prosecutors, if true,
made it a near certainty that at least one of the Trump entities
was filing false tax returns. The section of the information also
suggested that prosecutors could soon target Trump Organization
executives if they continue to press forward in the Cohen
investigation.

Mitchell Epner, an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich who
was previously an assistant US attorney for the District of New
Jersey, told Business Insider in an email that the language used
by prosecutors in the filing “raises the possibility in my mind
of a potential prosecution for money laundering.”

Roland Riopelle, a partner at Sercarz & Riopelle who
was formerly a federal prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office
for the Southern District of New York, pointed to Weisselberg
being summoned to testify testimony to the grand jury and told
Business Insider the executive “may already have immunity
and 

may already have told the SDNY what they
know.”

“If that is so, it explains why the SDNY does not need
Cohen to testify as to campaign finance issues,” Riopelle added.
“That testimony has already been obtained. If the employees do
not have immunity, it is possible they, too could be charged with
crimes, if the government can show they knew they were violating
the law and covering up the illicit payments.”

A representative for the Trump Organization did not respond to a
request for comment from Business Insider. Alan Futerfas, an
attorney for the company, also did not return a request for
comment.

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