Trump Organization swapped out jailed CFO Allen Weisselberg’s lawyer fearing he would protect his interests over Donald Trump’s, sources say

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — The Trump Organization swapped out the lawyer for its jailed septuagenarian finance chief Allen Weisselberg because it was scared he would protect his interests over Donald Trump’s, sources told the New York Daily News on Thursday.

Weisselberg, currently serving a five-month jail sentence on Rikers Island for tax fraud while head of the Trump Organization’s coffers, is no longer represented by Nicholas Gravante, a New York City defense lawyer Trump’s company was paying to defend him, two sources told the Daily News.

After sentencing, prosecutors at the Manhattan DA’s office, who have been presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump since January, told Weisselberg’s lawyers that he risked being indicted again for lying to Zurich Insurance Group about appraisals that were never carried out by real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield, a source close to Weisselberg’s criminal case told the Daily News, which was confirmed by a second source.

The allegations about the lies to Zurich are included in the New York attorney general’s large-scale financial fraud lawsuit against Trump, Weisselberg and various other company executives.

Gravante told Weisselberg it would be worthwhile to talk to prosecutors and listen to what they had to say.

That advice made its way to Trump’s side about six weeks ago, which then became “dead set” on having Gravante removed and convinced Trump’s son, Eric, to have him swapped out “immediately,” the source said, adding that Weisselberg made the final decision.

Weisselberg, who spent nearly 50 years working for Trump’s family, “absolutely” wanted to keep Gravante as his lawyer but was “pressured intensely” by Trump’s side and didn’t want to have to foot his legal bills by having to pay Gravante out of his pocket.

He also feared not getting his severance agreement from the Trump Organization, which he’s receiving in installments over two years.

The split began before the Trump Organization’s winter trial in Manhattan Supreme Court when Gravante arranged for Weisselberg to prepare testimony for several days with DA prosecutor Susan Hoffinger.

Per Weisselberg’s plea deal, the CFO was required to truthfully testify against the Trump Organization or risk years in prison instead of the 100 days he’s expected to serve. The deal didn’t require him to prepare with the prosecution, but his legal team believed the risk of him being surprised by their questions on the stand wasn’t worth it.

“It might have been suicidal not to prepare with her,” the source said. “Allen could have died in jail.”

Weisselberg’s lawyer made him equally available to Trump’s side ahead of the trial, having him sit down and prepare for cross-examination for several days with Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futrerfas.

But Trump’s side “hit the roof” upon learning of the sit-down with Hoffinger, the source said, feeling Gravante had given prosecutors an advantage they didn’t need, leading to “a war in the middle of the first trial.”

The Daily Beast first reported that Gravante no longer represents Weisselberg and that the Trump Organization is paying his new lawyer Seth Rosenberg.

The Manhattan DA has been presenting evidence to a grand jury against Trump since January and is believed to be on the cusp of nearing a charging decision. In recent weeks, the office has invited Trump to testify, which he declined, and summoned several current and former Trump associates to the downtown offices, including Michael Cohen, Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway.

Sources connected to the probe believe DA Alvin Bragg is considering charging Trump with felony-level crimes concerning hush money deals paid out in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election to women with whom he allegedly had sexual encounters.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that prosecutors aren’t only interested in porn star Stormy Daniels but also Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims she had a 10-month affair with Trump from 2006 through 2007.

Cohen went to federal prison for paying Daniels $130,000 on Trump’s behalf to better his prospects of winning the presidency. In the same case, David Pecker, the ex-CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., received immunity, with the feds detailing how he arranged with Trump to buy and kill negative stories. Pecker, who testified before the grand jury on Monday, bought the rights to McDougal’s story for $150,000.

Rosenberg did not return calls from the Daily News. Gravante and Mary Mulligan, who also represented Weisselberg in his criminal case, declined to comment. Lawyers and spokespeople for Trump did not respond to the Daily News’ inquiries. The Manhattan DA has declined to comment on or confirm any details of the office’s long-running Trump investigation.