Trump company, CFO expected to face criminal charges: Reports

Former United States President Donald Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer are expected to be charged on Thursday with tax-related crimes by Manhattan’s district attorney, according to multiple news reports.

The charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, appear to involve non-monetary benefits the company allegedly gave to top executives, possibly including the use of apartments, cars and school tuition, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal reported.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify those reports.

Trump, a Republican, was not expected to be named in this batch of charges, Trump Organization lawyer Ron Fischetti told the Associated Press earlier this week.

“There is no indictment coming down this week against the former president,” Fischetti said. “I can’t say he’s out of the woods yet completely.”

Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg looks on as then-US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Manhattan in 2016 [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

The charges will be the first to arise from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s nearly three-year probe into the former president’s business.

Mary Mulligan, a lawyer for Weisselberg, declined Associated Press and Reuters news agency requests for comment on possible charges. Vance’s office also declined to comment. Lawyers for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Wall Street Journal attributed the timing of the charges to people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Jason Miller, a longtime former senior adviser to Trump, spun the looming charges as “politically terrible for the Democrats”.

“They told their crazies and their supplicants in the mainstream media this was about President Trump. Instead, their Witch Hunt is persecuting an innocent 80-year-old man for maybe taking free parking!” Miller tweeted, apparently referring to Weisselberg, who is 73.

Trump blasted the investigation in a statement on Monday, deriding Vance’s office as “rude, nasty, and totally biased” in their treatment of Trump company lawyers, representatives, and long-term employees.

Trump, in the statement, said the company’s actions were “things that are standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime” and that Vance’s probe was an investigation “in search of a crime”.

The allegations

Weisselberg, a loyal lieutenant to Trump and his real-estate-developer father, Fred, came under scrutiny, in part, because of questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost.

Barry Weisselberg managed a Trump-operated ice rink in Central Park.

Barry’s ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, has been cooperating with the investigation and turned over reams of tax records and other documents to investigators.

An indictment could imperil the Trump Organization by causing banks and business partners to stop doing business with it, and result in fines and other penalties if the company were found guilty.

The case could also complicate Trump’s political future, as he flirts with a possible 2024 White House run.

Charges could also increase pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate with prosecutors, which he has resisted. Weisselberg has worked with the Trump Organization since 1973, making his cooperation potentially crucial to any future case against Trump himself.

More charges could be filed against the Trump Organization or officers there, people familiar with the case have said.

Vance, a Democrat, has in his investigation examined an array of potential wrongdoing, including whether Trump’s company manipulated the value of its real estate to reduce its taxes and secure favourable loan terms.

Prior to entering the White House in January 2017, Trump had put his company into a trust overseen by his adult sons and Weisselberg, who has maintained tight control over its finances. It is unclear what role Trump now has at the company.

Other Trump legal issues

Even if Trump is not charged by Vance, the former president still faces at least 17 other investigations and lawsuits.

These include a criminal investigation into whether Trump tried to improperly influence Georgia election officials to ensure he would defeat Biden in that state’s 2020 presidential vote. They also include defamation lawsuits by two women who said Trump lied when he denied having sexually assaulted them.

Prosecutors have been scrutinising Trump’s tax records, subpoenaing documents and interviewing witnesses, including Trump insiders and company executives.

A grand jury was recently empanelled to weigh evidence and New York Attorney General Letitia James said she was assigning two of her lawyers to work with Vance on the criminal probe while she continues a civil investigation of Trump.

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