This post has been updated.
While the American public had heard of President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen before he pleaded guilty this week to eight criminal charges related to tax evasion and federal campaign finance violations, most people are not familiar with David Pecker or Allen Weisselberg.
All three men have served as fixers of sorts for Trump over the years. And now all three are in a position to provide personal information related to Trump to federal authorities — making them the president’s foes.
On Aug. 21, Cohen made the extraordinary admission, under oath, that he illegally paid for the silence of two women “in coordination with and at the direction of” then candidate Trump, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” By the end of the week, David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg reportedly both obtained immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for providing information related to Cohen’s case.
Here’s a look at how each of these men fit into the inner world of President Trump.
‘I thought Pecker would be the last one to turn’
David Pecker, 66, is the CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI), the privately owned print media portfolio that publishes Men’s Journal, InTouch, Us Weekly, the National Examiner, and the National Enquirer.
Pecker and Trump are longtime friends. And Pecker has proudly and repeatedly used his media power to protect Trump’s interests over the years. “Pecker is eager to use his media empire to help his friends, especially Trump, and unabashedly boasts about doing so,” the New Yorker wrote last year.
CNN now reports that in 2015, AMI bought the story of a former Trump World Tower doorman who claimed to have knowledge of an alleged affair between Trump and an ex-housekeeper that resulted in a child.
“Source shall provide AMI with information regarding Donald Trump’s illegitimate child,” the contract stated. “AMI will not owe Source any compensation if AMI does not publish the Exclusive.”
The Enquirer was a particularly vocal pro-Trump media force in the 2016 campaign cycle. The tabloid published rumors of Sen. Ted Cruz having multiple affairs (Cruz blamed Trump for the story) and, most relevant to the current palace intrigue, was allegedly involved in coordinating Trump’s hush-money payments to both former Playboy model Karen McDougal (under the guise of paying her to write fitness columns) and adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
“Holy s***, I thought Pecker would be the last one to turn,” one Trump friend told Vanity Fair upon hearing the news that Pecker had made a deal with prosecutors and provided evidence that Trump knew about the payments to Daniels and McDougal. (Trump denies foreknowledge of the payments, though his story has shifted over time.)
One year ago, when Time magazine’s publisher, Time Inc., was publicly up for sale, Pecker was reportedly interested in buying. Sources told Yahoo Finance at the time that employees at titles like Time and Fortune were concerned that Pecker’s ownership would hamper objective coverage of Trump.
Indeed, as the New Yorker wrote at the time, “Time and the other magazines would survive, as the Enquirer does, as vehicles for Pecker’s cultivation of his friend, the President.”
But now the media mogul’s friendship with Trump has been severed in dramatic fashion. And in addition to Pecker, American Media’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, also reportedly made an immunity deal.
Adding to the intrigue, the Enquirer reportedly has a physical safe in which it stashed documents and records of the hush-money payments as well as other damaging stories it killed in service to Trump (and other celebrities). According to the AP, Pecker and Howard removed the Trump-related documents from the safe after he was elected.
‘Weisselberg knows all the rest’
Then there is Allen Weisselberg, who has served as the chief financial officer and executive vice president of the Trump Organization for decades. All indications suggest that he still works for. the company.
“Cohen knew about the payoffs related to women and certain details,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who has been covering Trump since the early 2000s, tweeted on Friday. “Weisselberg knows all the rest.”
Weisselberg, 71, is a “reserved accountant associates say is prized by Mr. Trump for his loyalty” who became “the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump,” according to the Wall Street Journal. After being elected, Trump handed off control of his financial assets and various business interests to his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and Weisselberg.
Yahoo News, citing a source familiar with the Trump Organization, reports that Weisselberg “was intimately involved in every aspect of the company’s finances and even helped craft the statement Trump debuted during the campaign describing his net worth.”
“Every bill went through him,” the source said of Weisselberg.
Prosecutors investigating Trump’s inner circle reportedly have a limited immunity deal with Weisselberg, who has provided testimony against former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. If his cooperation expanded, it could play a crucial role in multiple ongoing investigations.
However, there were indications Trump might not have given up on Weisselberg just yet and may be hoping the executive stays loyal. A source close to the Trump family spoke highly of Weisselberg, even after the reports of the immunity deal surfaced on Friday.
“Allen is an amazing person. Truly a class act. I have the highest respect for him,” the source told Yahoo News.
Federal authorities subpoenaed Weisselberg in April to testify about Cohen to a grand jury and reportedly granted him immunity related to those matters on Friday. Weisselberg helped arrange for Cohen to be paid $420,000 by the Trump Organization as reimbursement for his payments to Clifford ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and other entities. (When asked by Yahoo’s Hunter Walker if there were payments to other women, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not answer.)
“I’ve spoken with Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,” Cohen told Trump in an audio recording of a September 2016 conversation about buying the rights to McDougal’s story.
It is not clear if authorities are interested in Weisselberg’s knowledge of Trump’s finances beyond the arrangements connected to Cohen. Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel for the Defense Department, cautioned that there is “nothing (yet) in public record to suggest prosecutors gave [Weisselberg] immunity to go after anything other than the hush money payments/campaign finance law violations. This does not necessarily open the floodgates to Trump’s finances, etc.”
That said, authorities seem to be increasingly curious about Trump’s financial empire: The day after Cohen’s guilty plea, New York State investigators subpoenaed the Long Island native as part of a probe into the private Donald J. Trump Foundation. (Cohen, who agreed to a three-to-five-year prison sentence with his plea deal, personally called tax officials after receiving the subpoena.)
Weisselberg is the longtime treasurer of the Trump Foundation, a charity that New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood accuses of a “pattern of illegal conduct” and “willful self-dealing.” The foundation was mostly shut down shortly after Trump won the 2016 election.
Trump’s “world is closing in,” Yahoo Finance Editor in Chief Andy Serwer said on Friday on our live show The Final Round (video above). “This guy [Weisselberg], supposedly, really knows where the bodies are buried. The deep state of Donald Trump’s organization rests within his brain and his knowledge base.”
What is also unclear is the level of involvement Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign — along with “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
This week, Mueller’s team successfully convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight of 18 charges by providing reams of evidence detailing complex, corrupt financial dealings related to Manafort’s international lobbying and tax evasion. Trump may fear that his own business secrets are vulnerable too. And if anyone could shed light on those arrangements in detail, it would be Weisselberg.
Trump “is terrified,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio told Politico on the morning after Cohen’s plea deal — even before reports emerged that Pecker and Weisselberg received immunity. “This is 40 years of deceit coming home to torment him.”
Hunter Walker contributed to this post.