Prosecutors Reveal Alleged Hush Money Deal to Trump Crony

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Reuters

In a turn that is oh-so-meta, a brand new hush money deal is now at the center of attention in Donald Trump’s ongoing hush money trial: $750,000 that prosecutors say the business mogul is dangling above Allen Weisselberg’s head to keep him testifying against his former boss.

For the first time on Friday, prosecutors disclosed the strict terms of a severance agreement that the Trump Organization used to promise more than $1 million to its outgoing chief financial officer—as long as he kept his mouth shut.

The 76-year-old disgraced accountant is currently serving a five-month jail sentence on Rikers Island for perjury, having lied to try sparing Trump from legal trouble in a separate case that ultimately fined the tycoon nearly $500 million for bank fraud.

But Weisselberg has conspicuously remained the missing witness at Trump’s first ever criminal trial. Prosecutors allege he was the finance guy who helped manage the hush money deal that kept the porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about her sexual affair with Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 election. Documents in court show that Weisselberg structured the $420,000 repayment to Michael Cohen (then Trump’s personal attorney) after the so-called “fixer” had fronted the $130,000 initial payment to the porn star.

In court on Friday, prosecutors revealed that the Trump Organization has promised to pay Weisselberg three installments of $250,000 due later this year in June, September, and December. However, only if he doesn’t “cooperate” with law enforcement.

One part of the contract, read out loud in court, says Weisselberg promises “not to verbally or in writing disparage, criticize, denigrate” the company or any of its executives. Another section says “he will not communicate with” and “otherwise will not cooperate with” any entity seeking “adverse claims” against the company.

And while the law generally punishes people for “aiding or abetting” a criminal, Weisselberg’s contract by contrast punishes him if he decides to “aid, abet, or cause” any action against the Trump real estate empire.

This whole other kind of hush money deal came up because prosecutors are planning to wrap up their presentation of the case next week without calling Weisselberg to the stand, which might seem confusing to jurors. That’s why they asked the judge to let jurors see the severance agreement.

“What we’re trying to do is explain his absence. This agreement offers a real explanation as to why he’s not going to be here at this trial,” said prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

This legal debate ensued after the 18 jurors considering the case were sent home for the weekend. The discussion made clear that prosecutors will likely call Cohen as a final witness, then wrap up their presentation against the former president. It would then be Trump’s turn to tell his side of the story, if he even has plans to do so.

For a few minutes, lawyers on both sides sparred over whether to allow jurors to see the severance agreement. The judge initially seemed open to the idea. That is, until he discovered that prosecutors haven’t even tried.

“Has anyone attempted having him come in in some way... serving him with a subpoena or trying to compel his testimony?” Justice Juan Merchan asked.

“Judge, the people have not,” a prosecutor responded.

The reality is a tad bit complicated. The fact is, neither side wants jurors to hear from Weisselberg—because no one knows what a pissed off old man suffering in jail for the second time around after once again taking the fall for his boss might say.

He’s a loaded gun, and he could point in either direction.

Donald Trump and his son Donald, Jr., with Allen Weisselberg (C)

Donald Trump and his son Donald, Jr., with Allen Weisselberg (C).


Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor, readily admitted that his team saw it as a “strategically bad decision to put a witness on the stand who has an agreement like that.”

Meanwhile Trump’s defense team fought against the notion of having Weisselberg testify. But then he also complained that it would be unfair to let jurors see the agreement.

Emil Bove, a defense lawyer, tried to have the judge consider this cushy retirement package in total isolation. In reality, that deal followed years of Trump’s top accountant refusing to flip on his boss.

Weisselberg has been grilled by federal prosecutors who initially looked into the deal six years ago, pressured to testify about his cooking of the books at the company’s tax fraud trial in 2022 (before this same judge), later spent three months at Rikers for dodging taxes, played a reluctant witness at Trump’s bank fraud trial last year, and is now serving time for lying during that trial.

“That he entered into a settlement agreement after the fact... is not relevant to what’s going on at this trial,” Bove tried to convince the judge. “Mr. Weisselberg is in prison right now and not available to anyone.”

But the judge saw right through the uncomfortable dance being performed on both sides.

“It would be helpful to make my decision if I see that there were some efforts taken,” he said, accusing all the lawyers of “jumping the gun.”

The judge pointed to a narrow provision in Weisselberg’s retirement deal that allows him to testify if he’s dragged into court by a subpoena, calling it “a factor for me in making that decision.”

At that point, Steinglass pivoted, warning the judge that having prosecutors approach Weisselberg at all could cost the Trump associate dearly but still ultimately prove futile on the witness stand if he decides to plead his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Merchan suggested an alternative, one that would subject Weisselberg to a bus ride from the dreaded island jail in the East River to the criminal courthouse in downtown Manhattan. Once there, he could be ordered to testify in a courtroom without the jury present—and once lawyers know what he’ll say, decide whether to put him in front of jurors.

Merchan said the entire exercise would be important. After all, there’s a key difference between that and what he’s hearing now from lawyers who have a common interest in not hearing from a complicated key player in this saga.

“Then it”s on the record, and I’ve seen it,” Merchan said.

In the final moments of the fourth week of Trump’s ongoing trial, Bove made one last try to keep Weisselberg from showing up next week, complaining that the accountant was never on the government’s witness list.

“We were entitled to notice of that long before the trial started,” Bove argued.

At that, the judge turned down his gray bearded chin, shaking his head while his eyes pierced into Bove from behind his thick-rimmed black glasses.

“You didn’t think it was a possibility the people might call Allen Weisselberg to testify?”

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