Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has begun pressing Allen Weisselberg, the jailed former CFO of the Trump Organization, to flip on Donald Trump as part of an accelerating investigation of alleged wrongdoing by the former president during his 2016 campaign.
Prosecutors from Bragg’s office have advised Weisselberg, who is serving a five-month jail sentence for tax fraud, that unless he cooperates they are prepared to file new charges against him for insurance fraud, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Bragg’s office, which won a jury verdict against two units of the Trump Organization in December, has recently empaneled a grand jury to hear evidence about “hush money” payments prior to the 2016 election to an adult film actress who claimed she had sex with Trump years earlier.
As part of their investigation, prosecutors have interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer,” about his role in the payment. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion and making false statements to a bank in 2018. He also pled guilty to violating campaign finance laws by paying $130,000 to the woman, Stormy Daniels, in return for her promise to remain silent about her alleged affair with Trump.
Instead of paying Cohen back directly, the Trump Organization created paperwork to make it look as though Cohen was on retainer in 2017. The first two checks of the purported retainer were signed by Trump himself, who by then was president. It’s against New York state law to create misleading business records as part of a scheme to hide illicit payments.
Nicholas Gravante, a lawyer for Weisselberg, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Bragg also declined to comment.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty last year to charges that he violated multiple tax laws. He testified to his misconduct at the trial of the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp., where he told the jury about his own misconduct but didn’t testify about Trump.
Trump himself wasn’t charged, but the trial played out as he was starting his run for president and amid a series of other legal threats to him. They include a $250 million civil case against the Trump Organization and three of his children by New York Attorney General Letitia James, as well as criminal probes of efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the treatment of classified government documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home.
The prosecutors’ effort to pressure Weisselberg was reported earlier by the New York Times.