Legal experts say Trump Organization fraud convictions will help connect Donald to the crimes
The fine that the Trump Organization will be forced to pay in the New York case is not tax-deductible, quipped New York Times reporter Susanne Craig about the recent 17 guilty verdicts. She went on to explain that listening to the trial it became very clear that the idea that only CFO Allen Weisselberg got the fringe benefits were not believable.
This happens amid the possibility that the Manhattan District Attorney could levy a case he'd been criticized for putting aside, which could result in a $250 million fine. In this case, it is no more than $1.7 million.
Former FBI general counsel and NYU law school professor, Andrew Weissmann explained that the charges specifically focused on the company and not Donald Trump himself. The DA did not pursue Trump as an individual despite him directing the company.
"But there is a big 'however,' which is that, in the proof at trial, as the government said in its summation, included proof that Donald Trump knew of this wide-ranging, as you said, 15-year conspiracy, that was ongoing in the two Trump Organizations," he explained. "And, frankly, the idea that it would have been ongoing for 15 years in a small company and it was happening behind his back, when his own company and he were benefitting from it which seems, you know, laughable. I think that's part of the reason that the jury came back, you know, so quickly here."
Former U.S. Attorney, Harry Litman explained that the conviction here will likely make the New York attorney general's case broader.
Attorney General Letitia James released a statement saying, "We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets. I commend Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team for their successful prosecution of the Trump Organization, and I was proud to assist in this important case. This verdict sends a clear message that no one, and no organization, is above our laws."
Her state charges against the Trump Organization include a charge for CFO Allen Weisselberg as well around insurance fraud.
Former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu recalled that Bragg had previously dropped the case against Trump as an individual, leading to the resignation of top prosecutors Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz who believed that a case could be made.
"Sure the case is significant but Trump will spin it - as did his defense counsel - as being all his CFO Alan Weisselberg's fault who pled guilty to tax fraud and happily took his sweet-heart of 5 months jail followed by probation," said Wu.
Harry Litman agreed with Wu, noting that Bragg targeting Trump is likely on the horizon.
"Just on the evidence in the trial, not only was the Trump stuff part of it," said Litman. "But it was actually joined at closing by the defense. In other words, you can see this, and law authorities will see this as a likely determination by a jury of Trump's involvement in the overall scheme."
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen also explained that he has spoken to the DA over a dozen times about exactly this.
The next question is whether the IRS will also take up the case. As Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation at NYU Daniel Shaviro explained, it will be difficult to see how the Trump Org. could be considered innocent of federal tax fraud while being guilty of state-level charges. James has made a referral to the IRS already.
"But arguably of greater interest would be federal and state tax fraud (and other) charges against Trump himself," Shaviro said.
Legal commentator Bradley Moss quipped, "You know who doesn’t have a corporation named after him that was convicted of tax fraud? Joe Biden."
Not only did Weisselberg score the benefits, but so did Trump's own children.
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