Weisselberg is the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, giving him responsibility for all its finances. He has handled the president’s money for Trump’s entire professional life, since 1973, as Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien has detailed.
There is virtually no one who seriously believes that Trump conducts his business in an aboveboard manner, and Weisselberg is almost certainly party to it all. Adam Davidson of the New Yorker puts it this way: “Journalists who cover Trump’s finances have heard, from source after source, some variation of ‘I don’t know, but Allen does’ about questions regarding Trump’s unorthodox accounting practices.”
Weisselberg was granted limited immunity by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York to testify to a grand jury in connection with its investigation of campaign finance violations related to the hush money paid in 2016 to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. That scheme is part of the reason Cohen is headed to prison.
This came up in dramatic fashion at Cohen’s testimony Wednesday, when he explained that he and Weisselberg decided to disguise Trump’s reimbursement of the Daniels hush money as legal services. Cohen would submit invoices and then be paid, so that it looked like a legitimate expense.
That was itself fraudulent, but if Trump himself or the Trump Organization deducted those payments, that could also constitute tax fraud. Indeed, this constitutes another good reason to pursue Trump’s tax returns.
As for who signed the checks, “It would either be Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and/or Allen Weisselberg — but always Allen Weisselberg on the check,” Cohen said. He produced one such check for the committee, with signatures from Don Jr. and Weisselberg. Here’s an exchange he had with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) that’s worth highlighting:
KHANNA: I just want the American public to understand the explosive nature of your testimony and this document. Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the president directed transactions in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg and his son, Donald Trump Jr. … as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud, is that your testimony today?COHEN: Yes.KHANNA: And do you know if this criminal financial scheme that the president, Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. are involved in is being investigated by the Southern District of New York?COHEN: I’d rather not discuss that question because it could be part of an investigation that is currently ongoing.
The hush money payments are their own somewhat self-contained scandal. But Cohen also testified that Trump engaged in all manner of shady gaming of his assets. Those actions could potentially be criminal, and as CFO, Weisselberg would have been directly involved in preparing the documents. Unlike almost anyone, he knows the true value of Trump’s holdings.
Indeed, Cohen flatly confirmed that Weisselberg is the go-to person on this sort of thing. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked Cohen who could shed light on Trump’s history of gaming assets for both insurance and tax avoidance purposes. In both cases, Cohen’s answer included the words: “Allen Weisselberg.”
Weisselberg and the House Intelligence Committee
And that’s not all. The House Intelligence Committee plans to bring Weisselberg in to testify. What could Weisselberg provide when it comes to intelligence-related matters?
Well, a Democratic aide familiar with committee chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s (D-Calif.) plans tells us that the answer to this question lies in points three and four of the document Schiff recently released that details questions he hopes to answer with his planned Russia investigation. Those read:
(3) Whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates;(4) Whether President Trump, his family, or his associates are or were at any time at heightened risk of, or vulnerable to, foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion, or have sought to influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests;
According to the aide, Schiff hopes to ask Weisselberg for information that sheds light on those questions. In other words, Schiff hopes Weisselberg will open a window on whether Trump’s overseas dealings have created conflicts of interest or have made him or his family members vulnerable to foreign blackmail.
“This suggests that Schiff believes that Weisselberg is well situated to have insights into the Trump Organization and Trump family’s financial situation, and any foreign ties that would create improper leverage,” former U.S. attorney Barb McQuade tells us. “For a prosecutor, Weisselberg is a dream witness. He’s uniquely and perfectly positioned to have valuable information.”
When it comes to Allen Weisselberg, we have many more questions than answers. It’s somewhat remarkable, given his central role in the Trump Organization, that we haven’t been able to get those answers up until now. Weisselberg obviously would be prefer to stay silent and behind the scenes. But he won’t be able to do that for much longer.