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Trump-Cohen tape: Allen Weisselberg subpoenaed by federal prosecutors

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Michael Cohen and Donald Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald
Trump.

Jonathan
Ernst/Reuters


  • A top Trump Organization executive was reportedly
    summoned to testify before a grand jury in the ongoing criminal
    investigation involving President Donald Trump’s former
    longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • The executive, Allen Weisselberg, was mentioned by
    Cohen in the secret recording of a September 2016 conversation
    between the attorney and Trump.

A top Trump Organization executive was summoned to testify before
a grand jury in the ongoing criminal investigation involving
President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen,
The Wall Street Journal reported
Thursday
.

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump’s Organization’s chief financial
officer, is considered a witness in the investigation, according
to the Journal. 

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
declined to comment when asked by Business Insider whether the
subpoena was issued before or after Cohen’s secret recording of a
conversation between him and Trump aired Tuesday on CNN.

The Trump Organization and Alan Futerfas, an attorney
representing the Trump Organization, did not immediately respond
to requests for comment.

Weisselberg found himself dragged into the ongoing saga involving
Cohen and Trump after the tape’s release. In the September 2016
audio recording, which Cohen apparently made without Trump’s
knowledge, the two men discuss buying the rights to the story of
a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump
years ago.

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.

The former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, has said she had an
affair with Trump in 2006. The National Enquirer purchased
McDougal’s story for $150,000 in August 2016 but never published
anything on it. That practice is known as “catch and kill,” and
it effectively silenced McDougal’s allegations.

The tape contains a conversation between Cohen and Trump in which
they discuss a plan to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story
from the outlet’s publisher, American Media Inc. — whose head,
David Pecker, is a friend of Trump’s and Cohen’s — for about
$150,000.

On the tape, Cohen can be heard saying he needs to open up a
company for “the transfer of all of that info regarding our
friend David.” Cohen said he spoke with Weisselberg “about how to
set the whole thing up,” later adding he also spoke with him
about it “when it comes time for the financing.”

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner
at Thompson Coburn, told Business Insider on Wednesday that “at
the very least” Weisselberg is likely an important witness in the
Cohen investigation “because he can recount what Cohen said” to
him about the potential payment, something investigators were
already said to be probing.

Weisselberg could face liability, too, depending on what was said
in that conversation, Mariotti said.

But the only way Mariotti said he sees Weisselberg’s involvement
becoming more closely tied to the Trump Organization is if the
company was directly involved in any financing, not if he was
providing Cohen his advice on how to handle the matter.

Futerfas disputed
Cohen’s comments on the tape 
in an
interview with The Washington Post.

“The notion that Mr. Cohen would have spoken to Mr. Weisselberg
about a proposition he had yet to even make to the president does
not ring true,” he said. “Mr. Weisselberg is a bookkeeper who
simply carries out directions from others about monetary payments
and transfers. There would be no reason for Mr. Cohen to have any
conversation with Mr. Weisselberg prior to him recommending and
obtaining approval for the purchase he was suggesting.”


Michael Cohen
Cohen.
Jeenah
Moon/Reuters


Pointing to Cohen’s and Futerfas’ comments, Mitchell Epner,
an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich who was previously an
assistant US attorney for the District of New Jersey, said one of
two things must be true.

“Either Michael Cohen lied to Donald Trump when he said that he
had already discussed the issue with Mr. Weisselberg, or Mr.
Futerfas’ statement is false,” he said.

A longtime Trump fixture

The Cohen tape is the latest episode in wich Weisselberg, a
longtime Trump Organization executive, has seen his name pop up.

In May, The New York Times reported
that Weisselberg had known since 2017 of Trump’s reimbursement to
Cohen for a $130,000 payment to the adult-film star Stormy
Daniels, long before Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Trump
had reimbursed Cohen.

Weisselberg is also a key figure in the New York attorney
general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation alleging that it
engaged in a “pattern of illegal conduct” stretching for more
than a decade, including coordinating with the Trump campaign.

In one piece of evidence included by the acting New York attorney
general, Barbara Underwood, Trump signed a note addressed to
“Allen W” calling for the foundation to provide $100,000 to
Fisher House as part of a legal settlement involving Trump’s
Mar-a-Lago resort.

Weisselberg was the foundation’s treasurer.

Weisselberg’s appearance on the Cohen recording should worry
Trump

Timothy O’Brien, the Bloomberg opinion editor and Trump
biographer, wrote on
Wednesday 
that Weisselberg’s appearance on
the secret Cohen recording “should worry the president.”

“Weisselberg has detailed information about the Trump
Organization’s operations, business deals and finances,” O’Brien
wrote. “If he winds up in investigators’ crosshairs for secreting
payoffs, he could potentially provide much more damaging
information to prosecutors than Cohen ever could about the
president’s dealmaking.”

Weisselberg, who traces his origins at the Trump Organization to
the 1970s when he began working under the president’s father,
Fred Trump, “knows more about the Trump Organization’s history
and finances than nearly anyone,” O’Brien wrote.

Weisselberg was named along with Trump’s two adult sons, Eric
and Donald Jr., as the people who would manage the Trump
Organization after Trump’s inauguration.

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