Things are really heating up

Yakky Duck

In one week, President Trump lost or came dangerously close to losing four of his most loyal allies. Three people have switched sides completely, which could mean more political and legal trouble for the president is coming.

Here’s a rundown of the latest Trump allies to flip against the man they once fiercely protected, in efforts to protect themselves from legal repercussions over the fallout of illegal hush-money payments to women alleging past affairs with the president. The latest flippers are ranked in order of potentially least to most troubling for Trump.

3. Michael Cohen

Who he is: Trump’s former lawyer and longtime fixer. He swore in court this week that he paid a porn star to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Trump and helped bury another story from a former Playboy model, admitting the way he went about it violated federal campaign finance laws.

What else he might know: Cohen’s lawyer dangled tantalizing details about Trump potentially knowing something about hacking during the campaign. But it’s possible Cohen may have already given the most damaging information possible about Trump: While breaking the law to keep women quiet, Cohen says he did it at the direction of Trump.

2. David Pecker

Who he is: The publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer and a longtime friend of Trump’s. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that he has been granted immunity by prosecutors in New York to share what he knows about the hush money deals.

What he could know: Potentially a lot. Pecker is alleged, by Cohen, to have bought the rights to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal’s story alleging an affair with Trump, then never ran it. That’s not illegal per se, but the way the payment allegedly happened — from a company to help Trump win the election — would amount to an illegal campaign contribution.

There could be more. Court documents in Cohen’s case say he and Pecker worked together to bury other negative stories about Trump. The question is: What? And how? And what can Pecker share about whether Trump orchestrated any of the hush money?

2. David Pecker

Who he is: The publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer and a longtime friend of Trump’s. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that he has been granted immunity by prosecutors in New York to share what he knows about the hush money deals.

What he could know: Potentially a lot. Pecker is alleged, by Cohen, to have bought the rights to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal’s story alleging an affair with Trump, then never ran it. That’s not illegal per se, but the way the payment allegedly happened — from a company to help Trump win the election — would amount to an illegal campaign contribution.

There could be more. Court documents in Cohen’s case say he and Pecker worked together to bury other negative stories about Trump. The question is: What? And how? And what can Pecker share about whether Trump orchestrated any of the hush money?

1. Allen Weisselberg

Who is Allen Weisselberg?

Who he is: The top financial official for the Trump Organization. Weisselberg is more than just a business executive in Trump world. He’s been in charge of the company’s and even Trump’s personal finances for years. He’s worked with the Trump family since the 1970s. Like Pecker, he too, has been granted immunity to share what he knows about the hush-money deals.

What he could know: Weisselberg may be the cog that made the whole hush-money machine work. According to court documents in the Cohen case, he approved reimbursing Cohen, listing the payment as a legal retainer in the bookkeeping, even though Cohen didn’t have a retainer. (The Post reports Weisselberg did not know what the money was for.)

But Weisselberg may know what a lot of other payments were for, as The Fix’s Aaron Blake explains. He’s the guy who for years has approved the outflow and inflow of the Trump Organization. “He knows where all the bodies are buried,” one Trump Organization employee told The Post’s Philip Rucker.

In other words, the Trump Organization money man could be a potential gold mine for prosecutors who suspect wrongdoing.

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The fourth ally who turned away from Trump this week: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” — Jeff Sessions on Thursday

Daaang. Sessions’s statement is the bureaucratic equivalent of him declaring he’s fed up with the president.

Trump attacked Sessions (again) after Cohen and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were convicted Tuesday. It’s clear Trump blames Sessions for all his legal problems, since Sessions’s recusal from overseeing the Russian election interference investigation allowed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to carry out his investigation unhindered.

If Sessions was hoping the Trump storm would blow over, this seems to be the week he realized that’s a lost cause.

That his breaking point comes on the same week that three other people in Trump’s orbit ditched the president is probably not a coincidence.

Source: Amber Phillips, The Fix, Washington Post

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