Donald Trump is worried. He doesn’t like it that they’re talking to Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. It angers and irritates him. It’s particularly frustrating because the greatest ego climb down of Trump’s life to date, the loss of the presidency by more than 7 million votes, means he lacks the power to do anything about it.
The “they” who are talking to Weisselberg are Letitia James and Cyrus Vance Jr, and in a rare tour de force of bureaucratic efficiency, the respective New York attorney general and the District Attorney of New York County are sharing resources. This almost unheard of cooperation is orchestrated specifically with the view to getting everything right. Ms. James and Mr. Vance both know they are on career-defining investigations and they want to be sure they do absolutely everything by the book.
“Allen knows every bad thing [Trump] ever did,” Jennifer Weisselberg said of her ex father-in-law. That’s quite a claim, and it’s a claim that couldn’t even be made of John W. Dean III, who brought down Nixon. Prosecutors are sure what Weisselberg knows could send Donald Trump to prison — possibly for life — and they want access to the inner secrets locked inside Weisselberg’s brain. All they need is leverage over the embattled CFO.
That leverage may now be available. The New York Times recently reported that Weisselberg is now officially under criminal investigation by Letitia James’s office. The focus of the investigation is discovering if taxes were paid on fringe benefits Trump gave to Weisselberg, including cars and thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one or more of Weisselberg’s grandchildren.
If Weisselberg slipped up and failed to pay taxes on or declare any of those gifts, it would qualify as an oversight that could be viewed as tax evasion. Such harsh conclusions of criminality are frequently reserved for people who ought to know better. CFOs of large organizations are such people. It all depends on what the investigation uncovers.
Naturally, James and Vance couldn’t care less about prosecuting Weisselberg. It’s Trump they want. But they will prosecute him if they find he is guilty of these crimes and refuses to cooperate. And therein lies the crucible. Weisselberg’s almost apostolic worship of Trump might crack in the light of his having to do prison time for keeping silent. Weisselberg is 73 years old, and with a protracted trial and sufficiently stiff sentence, he very well could die in prison. That might be a bigger threat than even Weisselberg’s notorious hero worship of Trump could withstand.
Cooperating with prosecutors would be easy. Weisselberg probably wouldn’t even have to do anything quite so plebeian as wear a wire. The kind of crimes Trump is suspected of always come with an elaborate and inexorable paper trail. And the thing about such paper trails is they usually can’t be covered up. Both the presence and absence of paper can be exquisitely damning. Worst of all is the fabrication of paper, because no one is ever really sure whether or not originals are floating around somewhere — and who might be in possession of them.
But Weisselberg might even still be asked to wear a wire, a thing the increasingly paranoid Trump might already suspect. As the net closes in, Trump is becoming more and more suspicious of old friends and colleagues. As in the final days of the rule of Idi Amin of Uganda, Trump is losing confidence in his own personal security and his ability to stay out of trouble. Unlike Amin, Trump has no Saudi Arabia to flee to. Such fantasies are the stuff of silly speculation. Trump has nowhere to hide.
Will Allen Weisselberg bring down Donald Trump? Perhaps. But Weisselberg isn’t the only source of damning evidence against Donald Trump that’s available to prosecutors. But given the breadth and scope of Weisselberg’s information, he is a convenient source. Whatever the outcome, the name Allen Weisselberg may yet turn out to be a name worth remembering. He very probably will play a pivotal and very public role in the tawdry and disgusting history of a criminal known as Donald John Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.