Christie has maintained a cordial and clear-eyed relationship with the president. Though he carries some political baggage from his time as governor, he had credentials that few of the others considered for the chief of staff position could offer — skills that Trump likely will need in the year ahead. Among them were
- executive experience,
- political experience,
- communications skills,
- independent political relationships and, above all,
- legal experience as a former U.S. attorney.
.. Christie apparently concluded this was no time to go inside the Trump administration and to work for a president who rarely takes the advice of his advisers and whose volatility and unpredictability could prove to be even more detrimental in the months ahead.
.. The decisions by Ayers, Christie and others underscore the precariousness of Trump’s position. At a time when he will need all the strength, wisdom, firepower and support directly around him, Trump presides over a White House that is thinning out rather than beefing up.
.. The White House Counsel’s Office is understaffed heading into a year that could bring multiple requests for documents from congressional committees and the possibility of impeachment proceedings, if what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ultimately reports rises to that level. So far that is an open question. Others already have moved out of the White House to jobs on the Trump 2020 campaign or the private sector. More could follow in the months ahead.
.. Some loyalists remain. Among them are
- Kellyanne Conway,
- Sarah Sanders, and the president’s daughter
- Ivanka Trump and son-in-law
- Jared Kushner.
But on the issue of fresh recruits, the question is: Who would want to come to work for a president at this moment, knowing that could result in sizable legal fees as a side benefit?
.. For Trump, a group of people he once counted as among his most trusted advisers has been turned into a weapon in the hands of prosecutors
.. Another person who once protected the president and is now on the other side is David Pecker, of American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer
.. Equally worrisome for Trump could be the role of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer and the person who must know as much as anyone about the inner financial workings of Trump’s empire. He has been granted immunity from prosecution in return for his cooperation.
I think Trump has regretted becoming President from the moment he knew he had won on election night. I don’t think Trump thought he had any more chance of winning than anybody else did, which is to say unlikely in the extreme. Trump probably understood winning would have consequences, but I don’t think he really understood them. Trump is not someone who carefully thinks through the possible consequences of his actions. It can be taken for granted Trump knew there would be consequence, because at least Cohen, and his Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg would have sat him down and explained to him that even running for President was drawing a dangerous amount of attention to himself, let alone winning. Given how Trump has historically gone about doing business, he can not afford close scrutiny.
I think on one level Trump is loving being President, it is the ultimate ego boost, he probably likes the pomp and ceremony. although the fact he has to go to Paris to get a military parade, with real tanks and missiles must be driving him nuts. He isn’t enjoying the constant mockery, he hates that everybody is always critical of everything he does, he hates the complexity of a job he can’t get his head around, and he really hates that he can’t just order everybody about. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he really did believe he would be able to lock up Hillary with no more processes than an executive order.
Add to all that he has the Mueller investigation, the New York’s Southern District investigation. He’s lost his compliant congress, come January Congress is going to be making his life miserable, and I think you can expect to see these investigations multiplying. Plus all his old business colleagues are going to be turning on him, Cohen already has, and Allen Weisselberg probably has as well.
At some point, if he isn’t already, Trump is going to be thinking that the only way he can survive this is to follow in Xi Jinping’s footsteps and make himself President for life, Trump’s problem he is not even remotely in Xi Jinping’s league. Trump has surrounded himself with the foolish, the greedy, and the outright stupid. The problem is that Trump is stupid enough, and perhaps desperate enough he might conceivably try it. If that day ever does come, the opportunists, and grifters will savage each other getting to the exits, the real danger for Trump and the office is going to be in the fools he has surrounded himself with. While what in effect would be an attempted coup will have zero chance of ever actually working, and it would probably end up having all the elements of a farce, the precedent could still end up being very damaging.
So yes I would put good money on the fact that Trump spends a lot of his time feeling sorry for himself, and wishing that he gotten a handful less votes in the right places. Maybe he even wishes he hadn’t taken that ride down his golden elevator.
n late 2016, I had lunch with a former high-ranking Trump Organization executive, a person who said he was happy to share dirt on his old boss, but who confessed to not having much dirt to share. This executive wrote a list of people whom I might contact to find out about anything potentially illegal or unethical that Donald Trump may have done. At the bottom of the list was the name Weisselberg. “Allen is the one guy who knows everything,” the person told me. “He’ll never talk to you.” I have had nearly identical conversations with different people who work or have worked for the Trump Organization many times since. They all described his role similarly: Allen Weisselberg, the firm’s longtime chief financial officer, is the center, the person in the company who knows more than anyone.
.. It is safe to say that the entire world of Trump watchers—those journalists, political folks, and advocates who carefully monitor every bit of Trump news—went bonkers. Weisselberg is the man to whom those people most want to speak. He is also the man who has, for decades, been the most circumspect.
.. “I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Cohen explains to Trump.
It is difficult to hear the tape and not wonder how Weisselberg developed this particular expertise and whether he had deployed it before.
More importantly, it offers more justification for Robert Mueller and other federal, state, and local prosecutors to investigate the Trump Organization’s general business practices.
.. Weisselberg’s son Barry works at the Trump-run Wollman Skating Rink, in Central Park; his other son, Jack, works at Ladder Capital, which has been a primary lender to the Trump Organization in recent years, when few other lenders would work with a company that had experienced several bankruptcies.
.. Last month, the New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, sued the Trump Foundation. Weisselberg had been deposed and showed a surprising willingness to give answers that put the President in an unflattering light.
.. In January, 2016, during Trump’s Presidential campaign, his foundation made a series of donations to veterans-advocacy organizations in Iowa that were explicitly designed to gain support for his candidacy.
.. Were Weisselberg eager to protect his longtime boss, he could have answered the questions far more narrowly. It was an early hint that Weisselberg, like Cohen, may not jeopardize his own freedom to defend Trump.
- .. There is, for example, a question about where Trump got more than two hundred million dollars in cash to buy and lavishly upgrade a money-losing golf course in Scotland.
- In a deal in Azerbaijan, Trump knowingly did business with a family that is widely suspected of laundering money for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
- The F.B.I. has reportedly investigated the source of funds for a Trump-branded property in Vancouver, Canada; while the Trump hotel in Toronto also has suspicious funding.
- Many of the key questions about Donald Trump revolve around his funding sources and his business partners: Did he knowingly receive funds from criminals? Did he launder money for criminals?
- Did he receive remuneration to look the other way when his partners broke the law?
- Was much of his business built around selling his famous name to make illegitimate projects seem viable?
Was much of his business built around selling his famous name to make illegitimate projects seem viable?
.. Weisselberg is a big fish—perhaps the biggest fish of all. Fearing that Weisselberg might implicate them in a crime, any cronies, dealmakers, attorneys, and others who might want to exchange information for leniency from prosecutors, will now do so.
.. With Cohen and, now, Weisselberg providing information, it is becoming increasingly certain that the American people will—sooner or later—have a far fuller understanding of how Donald Trump conducted business. That is unlikely to go well for him.
We just learned longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity in the Michael Cohen probe, becoming the latest figure close to President Trump to cooperate with investigators. Weisselberg follows Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, David Pecker and, of course, Cohen. Pecker, like Weisselberg, had immunity; the others got plea deals.
.. But the latest news is potentially even bigger than its predecessors. And that’s because none of these other figures can likely hold a candle to Weisselberg when it comes to knowing about any skeletons in Trump’s closet.
.. Cohen, O’Brien had argued even months before, was a relatively small fish in Trumpworld; Weisselberg, by contrast, has been deeply involved in Trump’s business and finances for decades:
.. Weisselberg . . . has worked for the Trump family since the 1970s, and knows more about the Trump Organization’s history and finances than nearly anyone. Almost 71 years old, he joined the company after graduating from college and worked for the president’s father, Fred, as an accountant. He has since become the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer and one of the president’s closest business confidants (alongside Jason Greenblatt, who was Trump’s in-house legal counsel before the president named him as a special diplomatic envoy to the Middle East).
.. Over the years, Weisselberg’s professional duties also came to include handling Trump’s personal finances as well as the Trump Organization’s corporate finances. He has paid household bills, made large purchases for Trump, and has communicated with Trump’s outside investment advisers. After Trump became president his lawyers created a trust that safeguards his interest in the Trump Organization while ostensibly managing the company without his input. The trust is run by Weisselberg and the president’s two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.
.. Weisselberg has served as something of a jack-of-all-trades for Trump. He worked for the Trump Organization and the Donald J. Trump Foundation, yes, but he also handled personal stuff — up to and including tax returns, and he apparently consulted with Cohen on how to handle paying for the rights to a story about an alleged Trump affair
.. immunity deals aren’t analogous to plea deals. Sometimes, they are ways to prevent a witness from invoking their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, by allowing them to avoid liability only for the things they say during testimony — and not necessarily for the underlying crimes. That would mean Weisselberg wouldn’t necessarily be a willing participant in the immunity deal, even as it would require him to speak more openly.