Money and loyalty: A look inside the dramatic Trump-Cohen rift

NEW YORK NY- AUGUST 21 Michael Cohen President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer exits federal court

Drew Angerer Getty Images North America

President Donald Trump's personal attorney was an unexpected casualty of the Friday news that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was getting immunity in exchange for information related to the Michael Cohen case in the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

The Wall Street Journal first reported Weisselberg's immunity deal.

Cohen said in a court statement that he made those payments "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office", referring to then-candidate Trump, and added that he participated in the transactions with the principal objective of influencing an election.

The chief financial officer has worked for Trump companies since he joined the president's father, Fred Trump, in the 1970s as an accountant, and is a rich repository of knowledge of the family company.

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Michael Cohen admitted in court Tuesday that President Trump directed him to illegally pay out money to two women to keep them from speaking during the 2016 campaign about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump. Such payments could be considered illegal campaign contributions under federal election law, according to experts. But in this case, should the state of NY pursue charges and secure any convictions involving the Trump Organization or its employees, President Trump would not be able to pardon them. One of the executives is AMI's chief executive David Pecker, a longtime Trump friend. The bogus invoices Cohen submitted to the Trump Organization for reimbursement could open the company to claims it falsified business records, according to Mark A. Bederow, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney. The New York Times said a Trump Organization lawyer declined to comment for its report.

Mr Weisselberg, an intensely private, loyal numbers-man for Mr Trump, was mentioned on an audiotape that Mr Cohen's lawyer released in July of Mr Cohen talking with Mr Trump about paying for Playboy model Karen McDougal's silence in the months leading up to the election.

Jerry George, a former National Enquirer bureau chief, outlined the damaging stories about President Donald Trump that he says are locked away at the tabloid magazine's vault. He has denied the affair. Unlike in federal cases, Trump has no power to pardon crimes charged by state prosecutors and no authority to shut down a state investigation into his business.

On the tape, Mr. Cohen is heard saying: "I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up".

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Everett, however, said he doesn't doubt the sincerity of Cohen's sworn statements before the court on Tuesday.

Giuliani has said the payments were personal matters not subject to campaign finance law.

Under a reorganization plan announced before Trump's January 2017 inauguration, the business was placed into a trust controlled by Weisselberg and the president's two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

Trump has repeatedly denied there was coordination between Moscow and his campaign.

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The issue of whether a sitting president can be indicted has not been tested, though Trump allies point to two previously written legal opinions that weigh in against the prospect. US intelligence agencies, and separate Mueller indictments of several Russian individuals, have concluded they did.

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