Trump Organisation’s CFO ‘granted immunity’ in Cohen inquiry

Co-operation deal between Weisselberg and prosecutors could be damaging to Trump

Federal prosecutors have granted immunity to the Trump Organisation's chief financial officer in an investigation involving US president Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The CFO, Allen Weisselberg, was called to testify before a federal grand jury earlier this year, the newspaper reported.

A co-operation deal between Mr Weisselberg and prosecutors could be damaging to the president given the executive's long-time role in Mr Trump's business affairs. Mr Weisselberg has worked for the Trump family for more than four decades, including as treasurer for the Donald J Trump Foundation.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney's office in Manhattan, which has been leading the Cohen inquiry, declined to comment, as did the White House. The Trump Organisation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Alan Futerfas, an outside lawyer for the organisation, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Hush money

Cohen – who arranged hush money payments shortly before the November 2016 US presidential election to at least two women who said they had had sex with Mr Trump – on Tuesday pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges. He said in court that Mr Trump directed him to arrange the payments.

Such payments could be considered illegal campaign contributions under federal election law, according to experts.

Two executives at American Media Inc, which publishes the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid reportedly involved in making the payments, have also been granted immunity in the investigation, Vanity Fair magazine reported. The executives are company chief executive David Pecker, a long-time Trump friend, and Dylan Howard.

Cohen mentioned Mr Weisselberg on a secret recording that Cohen made in September 2016 and which was aired on CNN last month. On the recording, Cohen and Mr Trump appeared to discuss reimbursing American Media for a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has said she had a yearlong affair with Mr Trump. Mr Trump has denied there was an affair.

On the recording, Cohen is heard saying, “I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up.”

Catch and kill

Ms McDougal sold her story to American Media for $150,000 in August 2016 but it was never published by the National Enquirer, a practice known as catch and kill, aimed at suppressing potentially damaging stories.

Mr Trump has also denied having sex with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payment to Ms McDougal and a $130,000 payment to Ms Daniels were a personal matter and were not subject to campaign finance law.

The Trump Organisation is the umbrella group for dozens of Trump businesses, including real estate development, management of hotels and golf courses, and production of the reality television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice.

– Reuters