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Mar 30, 2023
Trump Organization’s Ex-CFO Told to Drop Lawyers Seen as Cooperative With DA
(Bloomberg) -- The Trump Organization pressured its former chief financial officer to drop lawyers seen as too cooperative with New York prosecutors who have now charged former President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Allen Weisselberg, who is currently in jail after pleading guilty to tax fraud charges last year, was threatened with the cut-off of legal fees and severance payments unless he switched lawyers from Nicholas Gravante and Mary Mulligan to Seth Rosenberg, said two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter isn’t public.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump Thursday on charges stemming from a probe of a hush-money payment allegedly made to porn star Stormy Daniels. As CFO, Weisselberg, 75, was involved in the transactions, and prosecutors have long sought his cooperation.
In February, Bragg’s office raised the possibility of leveling new insurance fraud charges against Weisselberg to pressure him to cooperate with the hush-money probe, the people said. After initial discussions, Gravante and Mulligan suggested arranging a meeting between Weisselberg and prosecutors to hear what evidence they had, the people said.
That crossed a line with Trump executives, including the former president’s son, Eric Trump, who told Weisselberg to replace the lawyers or pay for them himself, the people said.
Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that all the cases against him are politically motivated.
Gravante and Mulligan declined comment, while Rosenberg didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Susan Necheles, a lawyer for Trump, denied that Weisselberg was forced to switch lawyers.
“The Trump Organization did not pressure Weisselberg to change lawyers,” she said. “Nick Gravante and Mary Mulligan did an excellent job representing Allen Weisselberg,” she said.
Gravante and Mulligan negotiated Weisselberg’s plea deal last year. He admitted that he avoided income taxes by accepting payments in unreported perks like housing and cars from the Trump Organization. The deal allowed Weisselberg to serve just 100 days in jail but required him to testify at the trial of the Trump Organization on the same charges.
The company was found guilty in December and ordered to pay a $1.6 million penalty.
At the Trump Organization trial, Weisselberg told jurors about his own misconduct but didn’t mention his former boss. Nonetheless, people at the company viewed his testimony as one reason the jury convicted, one of the people said.
Necheles also denied that. “Weisselberg’s testimony at trial was extremely helpful to the defense and hurt the prosecution,” she said.
Weisselberg is scheduled to be released from Rikers Island on April 19. He stepped down as CFO after reaching his plea deal but stayed on as a senior adviser at his full $640,000 salary. He was also paid a $500,000 bonus in January. He will leave the Trump Organization after he completes his sentence.
The hush-money payments were previously investigated by Manhattan federal prosecutors who gave Weisselberg limited immunity. He testified before a federal grand jury investigating the payments in 2018.
That case resulted in a guilty plea and three-year sentence for former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Now a fierce critic of his ex-boss, Cohen twice testified before Bragg’s grand jury and is expected to be a key prosecution witness.
Federal prosecutors decided against charging Trump over the payments, in part because the Justice Department had a decades-old policy that a sitting president could not be indicted.
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