Feb 28, 2019

The Trump Organization's coming "proctology exam"

Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Near the end of Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked the former fixer whether President Trump had ever run an insurance fraud. Cohen said yes, naming three Trump Organization executives: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.

Why it matters: Cohen offered no proof for this allegation — and given his record of lying, his claims can't be believed without evidence. But by making this allegation — and coughing up the names of the executives — Cohen gave House investigators and federal prosecutors yet another trail to chase.

  • Unless you're a student of The Trump Organization — the thinly-staffed Trump family business — you may never have heard of Weisselberg, Lieberman or Calamari. 
  • But over the next year, these men and their colleagues may become household names as they endure a far-reaching, multi-armed investigation into Trump's family business and personal finances.

The bottom line: "This organization has never had a proctology exam like it's about to get," Bloomberg's Timothy O'Brien told me shortly after watching Cohen's testimony. "It's going to surface records. That's going to become problematic for all of them to keep their stories straight." 

  • O'Brien is in a good position to know. In 2006, Trump tried — and failed — to sue O'Brien for $5 billion for writing that Trump had a much lower net worth than he claimed.
  • In the course of that litigation, because Trump went after O'Brien on financial grounds, O'Brien got his tax returns and financial records.

Here's what Trump's businesses face: 

  • Five House committees (Financial Services, Intel, Judiciary, Oversight, Ways and Means) plan to look at Trump's business deals and finances.
  • The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing Trump, alleging he violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by taking gifts from foreign governments through his properties.
  • The New York attorney general has a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation, alleging Trump misused his charitable foundation in a "shocking pattern of illegality." Cohen may have bolstered that case yesterday.
  • The Southern District of New York has dealt with Trump Organization executives in its investigation of Cohen.

By all accounts, Trump still has Weisselberg's loyalty. NBC reported yesterday that Weisselberg still works with The Trump Organization and has never been a cooperating witness against Trump.

  • "Any law enforcement person who's trying to build a case around insurance fraud, tax fraud, money laundering is going to have to wind up spending a lot of time [with] ... Allen Weisselberg," says O'Brien, who spent time with Weisselberg while writing his book "TrumpNation."
  • "It's the classic thing: Follow the money."

Axios reached out to senior Trump Organization executives Alan Garten and George Sorial for comment on Cohen's allegations against Weisselberg, Lieberman and Calamari. They didn't respond.

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