The Trump Organization, the Trump Payroll Corporation, and its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with tax crimes in a Manhattan court on Thursday afternoon, one day after a grand jury filed an indictment.
The Associated Press explains:
According to the indictment… from 2005 through this year Weisselberg and the company cheated the state and city out of taxes by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books.
Prosecutor Carey Dunne described a 15-year scheme “orchestrated by the most senior executives,” including CFO Allen Weisselberg, that was “sweeping and audacious.”
Prosecutors said Weisselberg evaded taxes on perks valued at $1.76 million dollars he received from the Trump Organization, including cars, apartments, and tuition for his family members.
The indictment included fifteen felony counts, including a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, and falsifying business records. In several of the counts, the two Trump entities were charged along with Weisselberg.
According to CNN, prosecutors say they have digital drives with grand jury testimony, bookkeeping records, tax records, statements of potential witnesses.
“Politics has no role in the jury chamber and I can assure you it had no role here,” Dunne said.
Weisselberg – and the businesses entities – pleaded not guilty. He voluntarily surrendered to authorities earlier this morning.
Weisselberg was released after the court hearing, but he was required to surrender his passport after he was deemed a “flight risk.”
The charges follow a two-year investigation by two offices working in tandem; Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. and New York State Attorney General Letitia James have cooperated on the politically sensitive probe, which is ongoing.
Weisselberg is widely considered a stepping-stone to the former president; charges against the 73-year-old are likely designed to pressure him to provide evidence against his longtime boss. Trump has not yet been charged, but more indictments could be forthcoming.
Bloomberg explains: “With a trial unlikely before next year, Weisselberg will have months to decide whether to fight the charges or plead guilty and possibly strike a deal with prosecutors. A Trump executive for four decades, Weisselberg has unique insight into the former president’s finances and business deals.”
A layer for the Trump Organization said Weisselberg will “will fight these charges in court.” Trump certainly hopes so – he once said Weisselberg did “whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line.”
New York law enforcement began their investigation into the Trump Organization when they were trying to determine who reimbursed lawyer Michael Cohen for hush-money payments made to two women who reportedly had extra-marital affairs with Trump. Cohen was eventually sentenced to three years in prison, but his term was shortened and he was released in 2020.
The probe steadily widened as questions about tax improprieties arose. The Wall Street Journal explains:
The tax-related investigation is part of a broader criminal probe into whether the Trump Organization and its officers overvalued and undervalued its assets on loan, tax and insurance documents for financial gain, the Journal has reported. The criminal probe…[has] looked at financial dealings around some of the same properties, including Mr. Trump’s Seven Springs estate, in Westchester, N.Y., and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the Journal has reported.
Trump has criticized the investigators with his usual bombast, calling them “rude, nasty, and totally biased.”
On Thursday, his eponymous company released a statement, claiming Weisselberg “is now being used by the Manhattan district attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president. The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics.”
According to Politico, the charges have animated Trump and inspired him anew to run for president in 2024. Politico quotes former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg: “He’s already talked about this being the greatest witch hunt, a continuation of the greatest witch hunt, and it will just anger his supporters.”
Grievance politics have worked for Trump in the past, but criminal charges against his organization might alienate the Republican establishment that was forced overlooked some of his less savory behavior in order to capture the White House in 2016. Back then, the establishment was caught flat-footed by Trump’s unlikely political ascension. This time around, they have years to coalesce around a potential GOP rival.
The New York Times adds:
The charges also could strain his company’s finances and jeopardize its relationship with business partners who had stood by the Trump Organization even after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which prompted a backlash against the former president.