Who helped orchestrate an elaborate cover-up scheme to conceal hush money payments made to Trump’s lovers during the 2016 campaign? Lawmakers posed this question to Michael Cohen at his Wednesday congressional hearing.
“Allen Weisselberg,” he replied.
Who signed the checks reimbursing Cohen for his role in the scheme?
Who knew whether President Trump engaged in tax and insurance fraud at the Trump Organization dating back to the 1990s?
Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee solidified that the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer is the person most intimately acquainted with the inner workings of the company’s finances and of any wrongdoing involving the President and his family business. Cohen explicitly told the committee that Weisselberg is the person they need to speak to if they want more information.
House Democrats appear to be heeding this advice. After the hearing, Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said the committee will “probably” subpoena Weisselberg to testify, while Vice Chair Katie Hill (D-CA) agreed Weisselberg was “the first person” who “popped out” as someone who lawmakers must interview.
By Thursday afternoon, the Daily Beast was reporting that the House Intelligence Committee planned to call Weisselberg to testify.
The Trump Organization did not reply to TPM’s request for comment on whether Weisselberg would comply with congressional subpoenas.
Federal prosecutors are likely interested in what Weisselberg knows, too. The Trump Organization CFO was granted immunity last year to testify about the hush money plot in Cohen’s criminal case. NBC News reported that Weisselberg provided limited testimony on that specific matter and is not a cooperating witness. But when Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) asked whether federal prosecutors in New York were still probing whether Trump Organization executives were “cooking its books” as part of the hush money scheme, Cohen said he couldn’t speak to details that may be relevant to “ongoing” investigations.
The general contours of Weisselberg’s deep entanglement with the Trump Organization, where he was first hired in the 1970s, are well documented.
Cohen’s testimony on Wednesday helped flesh out the details.
The former Trump fixer brought as exhibits checks that Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump himself had signed reimbursing him for the $130,000 he spent to buy adult film star Stormy Daniel’s silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen and Weisselberg hatched the cover-up in Weisselberg’s Trump Tower office, Cohen testified, deciding to pay Daniel through an LLC so that Melania Trump could not discover the funds.
It was Weisselberg, Cohen testified, who decided that Cohen should be repaid via $35,000 monthly checks for what the company pretended were “legal services” in order to make everything look above-board.
“I obviously wanted the money [back] in one shot. But in order to be able to put it onto the books, Allen Weisselberg made the decision that it should be paid in 12 months so it would look like a retainer,” Cohen said in an exchange with Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL).
Weisselberg’s fingerprints were also all over the tax and insurance fraud that the Trump Organization routinely engaged in, Cohen testified.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) drilled down on these points, asking if the President ever provided inflated assets to an insurance company or deflated the value of his assets to reduce his real estate tax bills.
Yes and yes, Cohen said, adding that Weisselberg, Trump Organization Executive Vice President Ron Lieberman, and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Calamari were aware that Trump did this.
“Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.
“Yes,” Cohen replied. “And you would find it at the Trump Org.”
Ocasio-Cortez also asked Cohen about the 2018 New York Times investigation divulging the tax schemes Trump employed in the 1990s to avoid paying a huge amount of taxes on the real estate fortune he inherited from his parents. Cohen said he wouldn’t know if the report was accurate because he didn’t join the Trump Organization until 2007.
“Who would know the answer to those questions?” she prodded.
“Allen Weisselberg,” Cohen said yet again.
As TPM has reported, Weisselberg was also intimately involved in a host of other sketchy Trump endeavors. He was treasurer of Trump Foundation, which was forced to close after a New York attorney general investigation found rampant instances of self-dealing. He was involved with the fraudulent Trump University. And he works with Trump Jr. to run the trust in which the President placed his businesses while he’s in the White House.
Asked Wednesday evening if the Oversight Committee had yet contacted Weisselberg for an interview, a spokesperson replied simply, “We shall see!”
This post has been updated.
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