Entries in immunity (1)


Somewhere, “Dandy” Don is singing

The news came out today that Allen Weisselberg, Chief Financial Officer of the Trump organization, has been offered immunity from prosecution by the federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York.

Sidebar one: Those of you old enough may remember when Monday Night Football was co-hosted by Howard Cosell and “Dandy” Don Meredith, former star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. (Meredith hated Cosell’s nickname for him, FYI) Meredith was known for his humor. When a game was in its last minutes, with one team irretrievably behind the other, he would start singing an old Willie Nelson song. “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end. Call it a night, the party’s over…”

Sidebar two: When prosecutors offer immunity to a witness, it comes in one of two flavors, use and transactional. Use immunity means that the testimony of the witness about a crime (or crimes) can’t be used against him. Any other evidence against him remains admissible. Transactional immunity means that the witness is protected from prosecution no matter where the evidence comes from. It is the get out of jail free card. Prosecutors prefer use immunity and defense lawyers prefer transactional immunity. The transactional type is rarely offered, and only when there is a much bigger fish than the witness who needs to be reeled in.

It looks like Weisselberg has been offered transactional immunity for his testimony. (Update: there is now debate in the news as to whether he got use or transactional immunity. In terms of the risk to Trump and Co, there isn't much difference. Apparently federal prosecution tends towards use immunity.) As CFO of the Trump organization, there is only one person above him in the hierarchy, Donald J. Trump himself.

Weisselberg has been with the Trump organization since Trump’s father still ran it, back in the 1980s. Any and every Trump financial transaction since that time has gone through his hands. He knows everything and he has participated in everything directly. He’s the one who directed the Trump organization accounting people to transfer money to Michael Cohen’s account for the hush money payoffs to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal.

Weisselberg prepared Trump’s tax returns, oversaw his purchases, managed his loans, and generally managed all the details of running Trump’s enterprises. He was also a trustee and manager of the Trump Foundation, which is under investigation by New York State charity regulatory authorities for fraud.

Informed speculation:

Fact: Trump’s fixer/lawyer Michael Cohen entered a guilty plea on multiple felony counts without an explicit deal trading testimony for leniency. This is unusual. One of the felonies directly involved Weisselberg, as I mentioned above.

Fact: Investigators raided Cohen’s house under warrant and obtained millions of pieces of evidence, including paper documents, emails, text messages, and recordings of conversations between Cohen and other principals of the investigation.

Speculation: Cohen pleaded guilty with no conditions because there was so much documentary evidence that he had no leverage to bargain with. He just has to hope for a few crumbs of mercy from prosecutors. Undoubtedly the name Weisselberg appears in many of those documents and recordings. Weisselberg knew this as soon as the news of the Cohen raid came out, and realized that the jig was up. When prosecutors approached him, he made what is known as a proffer, a bid for immunity in exchange for testimony. Weisselberg’s proffer has to have been one of the most extensive since Sammy “The Bull” Gravano turned on John Gotti. It must involve decades of illegal transactions.

The probability is that there are both federal and state charges to be pursued. State crimes cannot be pardoned by Trump, so Michael Cohen, Eric Trump, Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Ivanka could all be beyond presidential help. For that matter, Trump himself.

David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer and protector of Trump’s sexual misdeeds, also received assurances of immunity in return for testimony, but that’s almost an afterthought. Weisselberg, Cohen, and Cohen’s stash of evidence are the keys to the kingdom. There’s nothing in between the Trump family and criminal convictions except time.