Trump Organization and CFO’s tax evasion trial scheduled for October

Protesters gather ahead of the arrival of former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg in court, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in New York City.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Protesters gather ahead of the arrival of former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg in court, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

PA

Capping an extraordinary week in Donald Trump’s post-presidency, a New York judge on Friday ordered his company and longtime finance chief to stand trial in the fall on tax evasion charges stemming from a long criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.

Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan has scheduled jury selection for October 24 in the case, which involves allegations that the Trump Organization gave CFO Allen Weisselberg more than $1.7 million in compensation unauthorized, including rent, car payments, and tuition.

Lawyers at a hearing on Friday hinted the trial could last several months.

Merchan denied requests by lawyers for Weisselberg and the Trump Organization to dismiss the case, though he dropped a criminal tax evasion charge against the company citing the statute of limitations. More than a dozen other counts remain. Lawyers for Weisselberg argued that prosecutors with the Democratic-run Manhattan District Attorney’s Office were punishing him because he would not turn against the former president.

Merchan rejected this, saying the evidence presented to the grand jury “was legally sufficient to support the charges in the indictment”, and that these proceedings had been properly conducted, their “integrity intact”.

If the schedule holds, Weisselberg and the Trump Organization will stand trial in November’s midterm elections where Trump’s Republican Party could take control of one or both houses of Congress. At the same time, Trump laid the groundwork for a possible return to the presidency campaign in 2024.

The criminal trial is just one of many real-time legal concerns in Trump’s orbit. FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an independent investigation on Monday, and on Thursday he and the U.S. Justice Department called for the release of search warrant documents.

Trump sat down for a deposition on Wednesday as New York Attorney General Letitia James concludes a parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company deceived lenders and tax authorities about asset values. Trump has invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

Trump was not charged in the criminal investigation, but prosecutors noted that he signed some of the checks at the center of the case. Trump, who called the New York investigations a “political witch hunt,” said his company’s actions were common practice in the real estate industry and not a crime. James is a Democrat.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty.

The most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny, carries five to 15 years in prison. Tax evasion charges against the company carry a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is greater.

Weisselberg, who turns 75 on Monday, is the only Trump leader charged in the years-long criminal investigation opened by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who traveled to the Supreme Court to secure Trump’s tax records. Vance’s successor, Alvin Bragg, is now overseeing the investigation. Several other Trump executives have been granted immunity to testify before a grand jury in the case.

Prosecutors alleged that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization conspired to provide unofficial compensation to senior executives, including Weisselberg, for 15 years. Weisselberg alone was charged with defrauding the federal government, state, and city out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.

In the months following Weisselberg’s arrest, the criminal investigation appeared to be progressing toward a possible indictment of Trump himself, but the investigation slowed, a grand jury was disbanded and a top prosecutor left after the Bragg took office in January – though he insists it’s ongoing.

Although the criminal investigation is separate from James’ civil investigation, which could lead to lawsuits and fines for Trump and his company, his office has been involved in both investigations. James sent several attorneys to work with Manhattan prosecutors, and it was evidence uncovered in the civil investigation that led to criminal charges against Weisselberg.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak. Send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

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