Reports: Trump Organization finance chief gets immunity

August 24, 2018 - 11:22 am

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's finance chief, a close confidant who has worked for the family's real estate business since the early 1970s, was granted immunity in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, media outlets reported Friday.

Depending on the extent of the immunity granted to Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, which was not immediately known, it could be a major development in the ongoing investigations surrounding the president. The 71-year-old Weisselberg is likely to have knowledge of every major personal and business deal Trump has been involved in since his career as a real estate mogul began.

The Wall Street Journal and NBC News were the first to report on anonymous sources that Weisselberg got immunity to talk to federal prosecutors in the investigation of hush money Cohen paid to two women who claimed affairs with Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to tax and campaign finance violations Tuesday. And while not named in the Cohen case, Weisselberg is believed to be one of two Trump executives mentioned in the suit who reimbursed Cohen and falsely recorded the payments as legal expenses.

Weisselberg's deal comes on the heels of several media reports Thursday that Trump's longtime friend David Pecker, the CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., had also been granted immunity in the Cohen probe, as well as the company's chief content officer, Dylan Howard.

The AP reported Thursday that the tabloid kept a safe containing documents about hush-money payments and damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Trump leading up to 2016 presidential election.

What's not clear is the extent of Weisselberg's immunity, whether it was in exchange for his cooperation just on Cohen's case, or if it extends to cooperation on other investigations. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment.

Calls and emails to the Trump Organization to reach Weisselberg and general counsel Alan Garten were not immediately answered. An assistant said both were out of the office Friday.

Weisselberg, an intensely private, loyal numbers-man for Trump, was mentioned on an audiotape that Cohen's lawyer released in July of Cohen talking with Trump about paying for Playboy model Karen McDougal's silence in the months leading up to the election. Cohen says on the tape that he's already spoken about the payment with Weisselberg on "how to set the whole thing up."

In Cohen's court appearance in Manhattan to enter his guilty plea Tuesday, Cohen admitted to making payments of $150,000 to McDougal and $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels "at the direction" of Trump for the "principal purpose of influencing the election."

The Trump Organization eventually reimbursed Cohen for that payment, setting up a sham invoices for legal expenses. The court filings, prosecutor say two unnamed Trump Organization employees — "executive 1" and "executive 2" — helped in making the payments.

"Please pay from the Trust," executive 1 is quoted directing to another unnamed employee. "Post to legal expenses."

The "Trust" refers to the entity that Trump set up after the election to hold his assets. He put the trust in charge of his two sons and Weisselberg.