Trump 'learned his lesson from Michael Cohen' about paying for witnesses’ defenses: ex-prosecutor
Former Federal of Investigation general counsel Andrew Weissman explained to MSNBC host Alex Wagner on Wednesday the potential conflicts of interest facing witnesses and defendants ensnared in ex-President Donald Trump's legal battles. Weissman was particularly concerned about who is paying for the defenses of people who were indicted along with Trump by United States Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith and Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis.
"Andrew, the burn rate in terms of Trump's PACs spending money on these legal par problems is staggering. And all the data that we have is from before these latest indictments landed. Does this seem problematic to you as it does to me, a lay person on the outside?" Wagner asked.
"So I have a couple thoughts," Weissman began. "One is just to put it in perspective. There are many, many people in the federal and state system who can't afford counsel at all. And it is a constitutional requirement that when they can show that they're destitute that the counsel's paid for. So my heart doesn't really go out to these people in terms of the comparative in terms of the sort of dual system of justice that we have here."
Weissman recalled previous instances where Trump's associates were provided lawyers at his expense, stressing that their cooperation only lasted for as long as Trump was footing the bills.
"With money unfortunately comes power," Weissman said. "You see it, whether it's an organized crime prosecution that I've done in the past where you have so-called house counsel. I've seen it in the corporate setting where corporations pay for counsel for individuals and some of those people do their job and they represent the person as they should independently. But there are subtle and not-so-subtle pressures, and we've seen it in this very case. Cassidy Hutchinson gave us explicit testimony about that she was given sort of Trump-appointed counsel and she actually said, she asked, 'Who's paying for my counsel?' And her counsel, if this is true, completely unethically says, essentially, 'Don't worry, you're pretty little head about it,' which is just unreal. She was entitled to know that. So that is the way in which money can be used to sort of keep everybody in line and inside the tent."
Weissman continued, "And you know, the first thing I said when I saw that there were eighteen co-defendants here, as we saw that there were two in the documents case, is how do you keep all these people in line? Because in the Georgia case, those are all potential cooperators because there is no federal pardon with respect to those cases. Those people are really facing real time and the proof on some of them looks really strong. So, you know, he needs to be able to sort of figure out how is he going to do that, and money and supporting them in terms of their counsel is one way to do that. He's learned his lesson from Michael Cohen, where when we were prosecuting him in the Mueller investigation, the spigot was turned off and he felt abandoned. And so that's the downside."
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