Anticipation of possible Trump Organization indictments builds

Former President Trump’s inner circle and legal experts are bracing for the political and legal fallout of charges being filed against his company as soon as Thursday.

Multiple news outlets reported New York prosecutors are expected to charge the Trump Organization, as well chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, with tax-related crimes. The charges stem from multi-year investigations by the Manhattan district attorney’s office as well as the New York attorney general’s office into the financial dealings of the Trump Organization.

The Wall Street Journal reported the company and Weisselberg are expected to face charges related to allegations that Trump Organization employees avoided paying taxes on fringe benefits like cars, apartments and other bonuses they received through the company.

Trump Organization lawyers reportedly presented arguments on Monday outlining why they did not believe prosecution was warranted, pointing in particular to the unusual nature of the charges.

“You’re talking about something that is totally unique in American history. People are talking about what’s common, what’s usual. Throw that out the window,” said Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University who previously spent six years as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, referring to the unprecedented nature of investigating a former president and his business.

The Trump Organization and an attorney representing Trump in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump is not expected to face charges personally, but there is still some concern within his circle about the consequences. Multiple sources said there has been chatter among aides in recent days about the looming announcement out of New York, though most do not believe it will impact Trump and his political operation at this point.

The former president has said little about the case publicly this week as the anticipation builds around charges being filed. He issued a lengthy statement on Monday decrying the investigation into his business as politically motivated, seeking to muddy the waters ahead of any formal announcement.

“They leak, they lie, and they campaign based on information that has already been gone through in other of the many investigations I have put up with,” Trump said in a statement. “Now they just leaked that we were given one day, today, to make our case about things that are standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime. They also know that no matter how strong our case, they will work hard to embarrass us and the Republican Party.”

The former president has had his focus elsewhere as news reports broke that charges could be filed on Thursday afternoon. He visited the U.S.-Mexico border with a group of GOP lawmakers on Wednesday to attack the Biden administration’s immigration agenda.

And most of Trump’s public statements during the week have been focused on attacking his former administration officials. He lashed out multiple times at former Attorney General William Barr after Barr dismissed Trump’s claims of election fraud as “bullshit,” and the former president took aim at Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, after a new book excerpt reported Milley sharply pushed back on Trump’s calls for military intervention during protests last summer.

Even if Trump comes out of Thursday relatively unscathed, it will not mark the end of his legal troubles. New York prosecutors are still looking into financial dealings involving Trump properties, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance obtained Trump’s taxes last year, including returns from January 2011 to August 2019, financial statements and documents concerning the preparation and review of the tax returns. 

Experts said the larger case could be building toward evidence that implicates Trump, though prosecutors would need to have an iron-clad argument to do so.

“I don’t expect to see Trump himself charged [Thursday]. That could happen later on,” Gershman said. “Clearly Trump was involved, but you’ve got to prove it. And Vance wants to try to prove it with witnesses such as Michael Cohen, Allen Weisselberg, other people in the organization who can say Trump directly knew what was going on and approved, authorized, or at least knew of the activities that his financial people were engaged in.”

Tags Allen Weisselberg Donald Trump Mark Milley Michael Cohen William Barr

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