Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is reportedly in the process of trying to flip Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg in order to potentially develop against case that former president Donald Trump and his family business.
According to The New York Times, citing anonymous sources said to have “knowledge of the matter” Vance’s office is engaged in “a determined effort to gain [Weisselberg’s] cooperation” by “questioning gifts he and family received” from Trump. The CFO, however, is not believed to be an actual target of the investigation.
CNN legal analyst and attorney Elie Honig told Law&Crime that the Manhattan DA’s office “should be” trying to flip Weisselberg.
“This is a financial case and he’s the financial gatekeeper,” he said.
Nonpartisan government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) praised the news.
“We applaud District Attorney Vance’s determination to expose what appears to be a pattern of illegal behavior by the Trump Organization, and no one would know what went on behind closed doors better than Allen Weisselberg,” CREW spokesperson Jenna Grande told Law&Crime.
On February 27, 2019, Trump’s former friend, attorney and fixer Michael Cohen appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and implicated his onetime boss in what legal experts have told Law&Crime is a textbook wire fraud scheme.
“To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked Cohen, who replied in the affirmative.
“Who else knows that the president did this?” she pressed.
“Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari,” he replied, clarifying that investigators would “find” evidence of inflated assets and false tax returns at the Trump Organization.
Cohen has since sat for several interviews with Vance’s office and is fully cooperating with the investigation that began as an inquiry into hush money paid to adult actress Stormy Daniels in late 2016. Investigators believe the Trump Organization was likely integral in masking the money trail in that instance.
Cohen threw Weisselberg under the bus over that scandal years ago but the allegedly inflated assets and incorrect tax returns are of foremost interest to New York City prosecutors who have telegraphed that they may be able to implicate the former president of the United States himself by way of an exacting look at the family business.
And investigators have looked exactly there—going so far as to subpoena Weisselberg’s own personal bank records and even to question his relatives’ closeness with Trump.
The late Wednesday report by Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman notes:
The prosecutors have also questioned Mr. Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, she has said. Ms. Weisselberg has been enmeshed in a bitter divorce with Mr. Weisselberg’s son, Barry, who manages the Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park.
Ms. Weisselberg said in an interview that prosecutors have asked her about a number of gifts that Mr. Trump and his company gave the Weisselberg family over the years. These include an apartment on Central Park South for Ms. Weisselberg and her former husband, cars leased for several family members and private school tuition.
“This investigation seems to be proceeding apace,” Tulane Law adjunct Professor Ross Garber told Law&Crime in an email. “It is the legal front Trump should be most concerned about. Given his role, Weisselberg is a key player. It’s not surprising that the DA’s office is examining all angles on him.”
The investigation is believed to target allegedly false valuations of various Trump-owned properties that have tax, banking and insurance implications.
“The important thing to note about the wire fraud and the bank fraud statutes is they’re extremely broad and you don’t actually have to have succeeded in committing the fraud you were trying to initiate,” criminal defense attorney Tor Ekeland previously told Law&Crime to explain the potential jeopardy for Trump and his business here. “The second you’re communicating in interstate commerce–with a telephone or email, the wires–they’ve got you.”
[image via Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images]
Editor’s note: this article has been amended post-publication to include an additional quote.
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