A federal grand jury subpoenaed the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer on Thursday, two days after the release of a 2016 recording in which President Donald Trump was apparently heard discussing a payment to a model who claims to have had an affair with him.
Allen Weisselberg, financial chief and executive vice president of Trump's business, has been summoned to speak with the grand jury in the federal criminal investigation of Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who released the tape on Tuesday.
In the recording, Cohen can be heard telling Trump, "I've spoken with Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up."
After the tape went viral, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) took note of Cohen's comment on Twitter.
Allen Weisselberg’s name came up in Cohen’s recording of Trump. He has detailed knowledge of the Trump Organization’s finances, and if he ends up having to talk to federal investigators, Trump should be worried.https://t.co/t11kfwgEtK
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) July 26, 2018
Weisselberg has handled the Trump Organization's finances since the 1970s and has also served as the president's personal financial adviser, handling some of his tax returns.
"Weisselberg isn't a bit player in Trumplandia and his emergence on the Cohen-Trump recording—as someone possibly facilitating a scheme apparently meant to disguise a payoff—should worry the president," wrote Timothy L. O'Brien in Bloomberg Opinion. "Weisselberg has detailed information about the Trump Organization's operations, business deals, and finances. If he winds up in investigators' crosshairs for secreting payoffs, he could potentially provide much more damaging information to prosecutors than Cohen ever could about the president's dealmaking."
In the recording, the arrangement Cohen said he had "set up" apparently involved a shell company that he established through which Trump's team made a payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who had sold her story to the parent company of the National Enquirer.
The tape was seized by the FBI when it raided Cohen's office and home in April, as part of an investigation into potential campaign finance violations and bank fraud.
Trump officials have previously denied that the president had any knowledge of a payment made to McDougal.
The recording could potentially implicate Trump himself in felony campaign finance violations, if the payment to McDougal was made to benefit his 2016 campaign.
Weisselberg's subpoena came to light just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the president's Twitter account was reported. According to the New York Times, Mueller wants to question Trump about statements he made on the social media platform about former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump's threatening tweets about the two officials—including one in which he wrote, "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" and his criticism of Sessions' "weak position" on Hillary Clinton's private email server—combined with his private interactions with them, could constitute obstruction of justice, according to the Times.