NYT: Manhattan DA still trying to flip Trump Org CFO

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File

If at first you don’t succeed … you get desperate, apparently.

How else to explain an attempt to lean on someone you’ve already convicted?

Manhattan prosecutors this week warned that they might file new fraud charges against Allen H. Weisselberg, a longtime top executive at Donald J. Trump’s real estate business — increasing pressure on Mr. Weisselberg to cooperate in a broader investigation into the former president, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, is already serving a five-month sentence in the Rikers Island jail complex after pleading guilty to unrelated tax fraud charges. While he testified against the company at its trial on the same charges last year, he has for years refused to turn on Mr. Trump directly.

But as the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, jump-starts his office’s effort to indict Mr. Trump, his prosecutors are using the prospect of additional charges to exert leverage over Mr. Weisselberg, the people with knowledge of the matter said. The potential charges, which prosecutors conveyed to the former executive’s legal team this week, center on insurance fraud and could lead to a significant prison sentence for Mr. Weisselberg, who is 75.


Bragg’s been trying to “jump start” his prosecution of Donald Trump for the past year, after he angered his progressive base by closing down Cy Vance’s efforts. At the moment, Bragg is trying to develop state charges based on a supposed campaign finance violation over a payoff to Stormy Daniels, a case that the Department of Justice wisely dropped, and not just because they lost an almost identical case against John Edwards a few years ago. It’s also because their case would have to rely on Michael Cohen as their main witness — a man who got a three-year prison sentence for lying under oath to Congress.

That may be why they want Weisselberg to flip now. If anyone else could testify as to the source and channels from where that money originated, it would be Weisselberg. That wouldn’t solve all the problems in this case, however. First off, it’s unclear that the state of New York would have jurisdiction on campaign-finance violations for federal office. And again, just as in the Edwards case, you’d have to convince a jury that a payoff to a mistress is directly related to campaign financing, which would be even more difficult a case to make with a multi-billionaire and $130,000 as the alleged payoff.

Or could this effort be related to another case entirely? It looks as though Bragg might be trying to push criminal charges along the same lines as AG Letitia James’ civil lawsuit, which might complicate both matters:


Weisselberg testified against the Trump Organization at its criminal trial last year as part of a plea agreement, but he did not implicate the former president in the company’s tax fraud.

Insurance fraud was mentioned in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil lawsuit that the AG brought in September against Trump, his eldest children, and his business. The lawsuit, which also names Weisselberg and other executives, alleges that the former CFO lied to an insurance company about an appraisal of Trump’s real estate portfolio.

Meh. If this amounted to a criminal case, James wouldn’t be bothering with a civil lawsuit. James already has included Weisselberg in her action, as ABC News notes above, which suggests that the AG didn’t think she could make a criminal fraud case against either Trump or Weisselberg. And it’s not as if James was unmotivated to try, either.

At any rate, Weisselberg didn’t flip the last time around, and he’s almost certainly not flipping this time around. Bragg may amp up the pressure on him, but all this demonstrates is his politically motivated desire to “get Trump” in any way he can, and at a certain point even the friendly courts in New York may get skeptical of these antics. As should the rest of us.

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