‘This is banana republic stuff’: Don Jr. calls $1.7M tax fraud charges against cuffed Trump org’s CFO a ‘disgrace’ after DA’s political ‘witch hunt’ that cost millions while NYC crime soars
- Donald Trump Jr railed against Allen Weisselberg’s indictment on tax fraud charges on Thursday
- He accused New York prosecutors of running a ‘banana republic’ and acting like Vladimir Putin
- ‘This is the political persecution of a political enemy,’ Trump Jr said. ‘This is what Vladimir Putin does’
- Weisselberg is accused of running a 15-year scheme to help Trump Organization executives evade taxes by compensating them with $1.7million in fringe benefits that were hidden from the authorities
- The Trump Organization was also charged in a 15-count indictment, that included charges of conspiracy, grand larceny, tax fraud and falsifying business accounts
- The investigation has cost millions of dollars but could yield just tens of thousands of dollars in back tax
Donald Trump Jr has accused New York prosecutors of acting like Vladimir Putin and running ‘a banana republic’ after the Trump Organization chief financial officer was indicted on charges of tax fraud.
Allen Weisselberg, 73, appeared before a judge in New York on Thursday, charged with running a 15-year scheme to help its executives evade taxes by compensating them with $1.7 million in fringe benefits that were hidden from the authorities.
Weisselberg is considered a ‘soldier’ in the Trump Organization, having worked for the company ever since 1973, under Donald Trump’s father Fred.
Trump Jr, an executive vice president at The Trump Organization, told Fox News’ Jesse Watters on Thursday that the charges against Weisselberg were akin to those pressed by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
‘This is the political persecution of a political enemy,’ he said.
‘This is what Vladimir Putin does. Just ask Navalny,’ Trump Jr said referencing the dissident Alexei Navalny. ‘That’s what’s happened in New York. It’s the equivalent of Russia, Russia, Russia.
He added: ‘After five years, three million documents, countless witnesses and hours of grand jury testimony and forensic auditors, this is what they come up with.
‘They’re going to charge a guy who is 75 years old on crimes of avoiding taxes on fringe benefit. People in corporate America get a corporate card.’
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Donald Trump Jr (left) accused New York prosecutors of acting like Vladimir Putin and running ‘a banana republic’ after they indicted Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg (right) on charges of tax fraud
Weisselberg is seen being led through a Manhattan court on Thursday, to appear before a judge
Weisselberg (center) is seen with Donald Trump and his son, Don Jr, in January 2017
The 15 counts against the Trump Organization and its long-serving chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg
Prosecutors unveiled their case against Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday. It contained 15 charges, several of which only apply to the chief financial officer. They are:
‘I’m sure you’ve paid taxes every time you’ve taken a car to or from work. It happens sometimes,’ Trump Jr continued.
‘This is what – this is not what they promised the American public, but they have to do something.’
The Trump Organization was also charged in a 15-count indictment, that included charges of conspiracy, grand larceny, tax fraud and falsifying business accounts.
The maximum prison sentence is 15 years, but he would likely get less, if any time at all.
Assistant District Attorney Carey Dunne said: ‘As spelled out in the indictment, this was a 15-year long tax fraud scheme.
‘It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and others.’
Trump Jr said that they deliberately announced the charges on the Thursday of the July 4 weekend ‘because it’s nonsense’.
He added: ‘But this is what they do to their enemies. No different than Putin.’
The indictment accused Weisselberg of failing to pay tax on two leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free apartment, bonuses and about $360,000 in school fees paid for by the Trump Organization.
It also said that other, unnamed executives were given similar benefits and that Weisselberg orchestrated the scheme with ‘others.’
He accused the New York officials of attempting ‘to destroy a man’s life, his reputation’, and said it was like living ‘in a banana republic’.
Trump Jr added: ‘And in this is what they’ve got after all of that time.
‘Imagine the millions they spent had they done that actually trying to stop real criminals in New York, like the tens of thousands that looted in New York last year.
‘Hundreds of thousands of them were released without even a slap on the wrist just last week.
‘Penn station is like a war zone. The city is going to hell and this is where they are focusing. ‘
Trump Jr disputed the $1.7million figure, insisting that it was income.
‘The taxable portion of that to New York state is eight percent,’ he claimed.
‘That’s $136,000 over 16 years. That’s ten grand a year.
‘Half of that, because my father is a good guy, he paid for this guy’s grandchildren’s education.
‘Our tax experts say that’s not even taxable. You can pay for someone’s education that way. It comes out to less than ten grand a year. ‘
He concluded: ‘This is a farce. It’s a disgrace that they spent millions of dollars and years, instead of prosecuting actual murderous thugs on the streets of New York, they go after their political enemies.’
A loose pair of handcuffs, which would be used to secure him to an escort, can be seen behind Weisselberg’s back as he is brought into court to hear 15 charges against him
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. Former president Donald Trump’s company and its long-serving chief financial officer were charged in the first indictments brought in a two-year investigation
An attorney who helped bring impeachment charges against Donald Trump says he thinks the ex-president is in the clear over New York prosecutors’ probes into his finances.
Daniel Goldman dismissed the idea of any further indictments while chatting on MSNBC Thursday, as Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg appeared in a Manhattan court on tax avoidance charges.
The former US assistant attorney also issued a series of tweets suggesting that it would be hard to find incriminating evidence against the president, because he does not use emails or texts, which can be retrieved by investigators.
The lawyer noted that the case in which the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg is involved would normally have been settled in civil court.
Goldman believes Weisselberg’s refusal to cooperate with prosecutors or even enter settlement negotiations could be instructive of what is to come.
An attorney who was involved in legal team in the impeachment of Donald Trump, Daniel Goldman, has said he does not believe the Manhattan District Attorney will bring any additional charges in the investigation
Weisselberg was paraded in court wearing handcuffs on Thursday to hear charges that he failed to pay taxes for years on a company car, apartment and school fees for his grandchildren.
The investigation has cost millions of dollars but could yield just tens of thousands of dollars in back tax.
Weisselberg is accused of failing to pay tax on $1.76 million of perks since 2005, according to the 25-page indictment.
The Trump Organization was also charged in a 15-count indictment, that included charges of conspiracy, grand larceny, tax fraud and falsifying business accounts. The maximum prison sentence is 15 years, but he would likely get less, if any time at all.
‘This type of case is often settled civilly,’ Goldman, who acted as a prosecutor for Trump’s January 2020 impeachment, explained: ‘If the Trump Organization wanted to, my guess is they could have engaged in good faith negotiations to try to settle this case with a fine and perhaps avoid a guilty plea or a conviction.
‘They chose to fight this. That says something. It’s typical of Donald Trump. But I am a little surprised that this ultimately ended, based on these allegations, in a criminal charge rather than a settlement.’
‘They’ve already taken a run at Allen Weisselberg. They have also approached Allen Weisselberg, I am certain, and said, “This is what we have. We would like you to cooperate.” Allen Weisselberg said, “Thanks but no thanks, I’m not going to cooperate. I’ll take my chances,”‘ Goldman theorized.
‘He’s not facing that much jail time. And I don’t think there’s any more pressure to add to him based on the fact that he was in handcuffs today. He knew that was coming. He made that conscious decision to get arrested and get indicted rather than cooperate.
‘And so I don’t think we have any good reason to suspect that he is going to cooperate down the road. So I don’t see why there would be additional charges against the Trump Organization unless new evidence comes in. My guess is that they’ve evaluated this evidence.
‘I don’t really see any statute of limitations issues in this indictment that would have required them to do this now as opposed to later, which could be a reason why they’re going to bifurcate any charges. So, it’s a little confusing to me if they have more, why they would charge this. And for that reason, common sense leads me to believe that they’re not going to have any more.’
Goldman made similar points in a series of tweets where he explained how he believes there is unlikely to be any further charges.
He wrote: ‘A short explanation of my analysis of the Trump Org indictment: 1) the allegations laid out in the indictment are powerful, persuasive and backed up by a lot of evidence. The scheme was premeditated and blatant cheating over a long period of time. The indictment is impressive.
‘Weisselberg and the other unidentified employees referenced in the Indictment should be charged with these crimes. But this is not a typical case against a corp, even tho the heightened bar required to charge corporations is met. The consequences for the Org could be dire.
‘I spent some time learning about the Trump Org and I spent a lot of time with Michael Cohen, including deposing him. Based on my knowledge and experience, it is my belief that Weisselberg’s cooperation is likely necessary to charge Donald Trump, who does not email or text.
‘As a former prosecutor, it is my experience that when you want to flip a defendant, you throw everything you have at him. I’m assuming that is what the DA did with AW bc that provides the most leverage. Defendants are more likely to cooperate if they face a lot of jail time.
‘Because of AW’s position as the financial/accounting hub of the TO, I suspect he would have been involved in any other fraudulent activity (insurance fraud, loan fraud, accounting fraud, or corporate tax fraud). Thus, the DA would wait to see if he could charge AW with more.
‘AW declined to cooperate pre-indictment so they charged him with what they had. That means they likely don’t yet have a case to make on other fraud. But they likely would not have rushed this indictment if they might get there on other fraud and gain more leverage against AW.
Goldman added: ‘As a result, my educated guess is that this is all they will charge AW with. And while it is a serious and brazen crime that should land him in jail, he has made the decision not to cooperate and I don’t think that will change.
‘Ordinarily, the co is the last one charged in a case because you want to flesh out all of the individuals and see who cooperates. So it would be very unusual to charge the co twice. I have no doubt they will continue to investigate and perhaps other lower level ppl will flip.
‘but this is why a) I think these are all the charges against Weisselberg, b) I don’t think he will flip, c) I don’t think Trump will be charged and d) I don’t think the Trump Org will be charged with anything else.
‘Two final thoughts: A) insurance fraud, accounting fraud and loan fraud are very difficult cases to make. You need admissible evidence that proves every element beyond a reasonable doubt, including knowledge and intent. For someone like Trump who does not email, it’s even harder.
‘B) I’m no fan of Trump but I do not believe he should be charged with a crime because one doesn’t like him or his politics. If you objected to his attack on the rule of law during his presidency, then you must stand up for the rule of law now even if he benefits from.’
Reporting by James Gordon for DailyMail.com
Thursday’s indictment accused Weisselberg of failing to pay tax on two leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free apartment, bonuses and school fees paid for by the Trump Organization.
It also said that other, unnamed executives were given similar benefits and that Weisselberg orchestrated the scheme with ‘others.’
Weisselberg, dressed in dark suit and open-necked pale blue shirt, cut a diminished figure in a crowded New York Supreme Court.
He was frequently invisible behind black shirted court officers and spoke only to enter a plea of not guilty. He was required to turn in his passport and will return to court on September 9.
The charges against the company and Weisselberg – whom Trump once praised as doing ‘whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line’ – were the first indictments delivered in a two-year investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
The various schemes alleged in the indictment include: $1,174,018 in untaxed income used to pay Weisselberg’s rent $359,058 in unreported compensation for private school fees $196,245 in untaxed income for Mercedes Benz leases $29,400 in under-the-table cash used to pay holiday tips
Trump Organization lawyers believe they can strip out the school fees and some other items from the charges, possibly reducing the taxable amount to $800,000.
With a state income tax rate of about 10 percent, that means Weisselberg may face a tax bill of just $80,000.
But the real target may be creating enough leverage to persuade him to ‘flip,’ according to Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes related to his work as Trump’s fixer.
‘Weisselberg now knows what handcuffs feel like as well as being placed in a cell,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘As the pressure by prosecutors increase on him and his sons, the smart money would be on Weisselberg cooperating for leniency.’
The charges could also complicate the Trump Organization’s relationships with banks and partners, not to mention the political future of the former president.
‘The political witch hunt by the radical left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues,’ he said in a statement. ‘It is dividing our country like never before.’
His office emailed another statement later in the afternoon, linking the case more directly to the votes of his supporters.
He asked: ‘Do people see the radical left prosecutors, and what they are trying to do to 75M+++ voters and patriots, for what it is?’
New York Attorney General Letitia James said the developments were an ‘important marker’ in the investigation of the Trump Organization.
‘This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,’ she said.
But Trump’s son Eric blasted the investigation before the charges were unsealed, saying taxpayers’ money had been wasted.
‘It is an absolute abuse of power and a political vendetta,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘They are petrified my father will run again in 2024.
‘After five years, hundreds of subpoenas, three and a half million pages of documents, and dozens of witnesses, this is what they have?’
The Trump Organization described Weisselberg as ‘a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather.’
‘He is now being used by the Manhattan District Attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President,’ it said in a statement.
‘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.’
The case against Trump’s trusted lieutenant – who began work for the Trump family in 1973 – could give New York prosecutors an opening to pressure him into cooperating and offering evidence about the former president’s financial dealings.
But so far Trump has shrugged off the threat and Weisselberg is not believed to have flipped on his boss.
Insiders say he is like a member of the family and are confident he will not give evidence against his employer.
‘He’s a great guy, just one of the best,’ said one. ‘Comes in, does his job, has the same lunch every day and goes home to his wife.
Another source said Trump viewed Weisselberg, two years his junior, like a brother.
The indictment follows months of increasing pressure after the Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, announced he was going to step down at the end of this 2021.
Vance fought a long battle to get Trump’s tax records and has been subpoenaing documents and interviewing company executives and other Trump insiders.
Trump did not respond to reporters’ shouted questions about the New York case as he visited Texas on Wednesday, but earlier in the week, the Republican had blasted the prosecutors as ‘rude, nasty, and totally biased’ and said his company’s actions were ‘standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime.’
Just how essential Weisselberg would be to prosecutors is a matter of debate – with high-stakes relevancy Trump.
On Tuesday, top House Democratic impeachment lawyer Daniel Goldman tweeted that Weisselberg’s cooperation is vital to whether prosecutors are able to go after Trump himself.
‘As I’ve been saying for a while, if Allen Weisselberg does not cooperate with the Manhattan DA’s office — and all indications are that he has not and will not — that office will not be able to criminally charge Donald Trump for any of the conduct under investigation,’ Goldman wrote.
That drew a retort from longtime Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who has met numerous times with prosecutors in New York amid the probe.
‘Wrong! They have documents to prove more than you know or should be commenting on. Weisselberg is not the key to a Trump indictment,’ Cohen responded.
Another former federal prosecutor in New York, Daniel Alonson, later tweeted his own view that that potential charges being publicly discussed might not be enough to ensure Weisselberg’s cooperation.
Cohen also reacted Wednesday to the news of a looming potential indictment, calling it a ‘Bad day for Trump Organization’ but a ‘good day for The United States of America!’
‘Evading taxes on fringe benefits is important to prosecute – but by itself isn’t the type of earth-shaking charge that typically leads defendants to cooperate,’ he wrote.’
Trump’s former spokesman Jason Miller took to Twitter to ridicule the way the investigation had fallen far short of its intended target.
‘This is politically terrible for the Democrats,’ he wrote.
‘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!’
Trump’s lawyers have shrugged off the threat, saying it would be highly unusual for the district attorney to target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits.
They met with prosecutors on Monday in a final push to persuade prosecutors not to bring charges.
But reports suggest prosecutors have spent months building a case against Weisselberg, a senior executive, in the hope that he might flip, and offer evidence against his boss.
Photographs on Tuesday captured a man in a suit carrying a cardboard banker’s box with ’45 Office’ written on the outside. That is the same phrase the former president attaches to his post-presidential statements from his taxpayer-funded post-presidential office. Perched atop the case was a tan briefcase with a combo lock.
Trump himself was spotted exiting his Fifth Avenue building in the afternoon, departing after longtime aide Dan Scavino, who helps organize Trump’s social media strategy and served as his golf caddie decades ago.
Trump’s attorney Fischetti says he doesn’t expect charges to be brought against the former president after meeting New York prosecutors on Monday.
The Trump Organization released a statement saying Weisselberg was being used as a ‘pawn’ in an effort to harm the former president. Perks given to employees are believed to be at the center of the investigation
Trump Organization chief Allen Weisselberg surrendered this morning to the Manhattan district attorney’s office as he faces a tax indictment due to be unsealed later today
Cars, apartments at school tuition: The perks at the center of New York prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump Organization
Charges against the Trump Organization and one of its most senior executives are expected on Thursday.
The Manhattan district attorney has spent months investigating whether chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg avoided paying taxes on company perks.
Some of the details are believed to have emerged from documents saved by his daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg after an acrimonious divorce from his son Barry.
The perks reportedly include:
- Some $500,000 paid to Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School for two of Weisselberg’s grandchildren
- An apartment in an Upper East Side townhouse, used by Weisselberg’s son and daughter-in-law during their divorce
- A rent-free apartment in the Trump property at 100 Central Park South, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, where they lived before that
- Prosecutors are also scrutinizing whether taxes were properly paid on cars leased through the Trump Organization
- Other members have staff have said they were given tickets to the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow each year
Weisselberg helped run the company when Donald Trump took the White House.
He has been identified as one of the principal figures with legal exposure after prosecutors combed through company finances and picked through unusual pay and benefit packages including up to $500,000 in prep school tuition for his grandchildren.
His former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, told CNN Monday night she is willing to testify to a federal grand jury meeting in Manhattan.
‘We’re prepared, and we are getting prepared,’ she said.
She was previously married to Weisselberg’s son, Barry. She did not say whether prosecutors had requested her to testify, although she has handed over voluminous documents.
During the meeting, senior officials with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Attorney General’s Office met with Trump defense lawyers who highlighted the damage the company could face, should an indictment occur.
The two prosecutors’ offices – now working together in their probe against Trump – did not indicate whether they’d decided to press charges.
But the collateral damage from any indictments could spread far and wide, affecting relationships with banks and other business partners, Trump Organization lawyers are purported to have said.
Meetings to discuss ‘collateral consequences’ are routine in white-collar investigations when charges are near, according to the New York Times.
The meeting, conducted through video conferencing, lasted for less than an hour.
In a lengthy and rambling statement issued on Monday, Trump called the DA’s investigation ‘a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time’ and claimed prosecutors ‘failed’ to find a crime despite ‘millions of dollars of taxpayer funds wasted.’
Trump railed against the prosecution in his response.
‘They will do anything to stop the MAGA movement (and me),’ the former president said.
‘They also know that no matter how strong our case, they will work hard to embarrass us and the Republican Party.’
He claimed the prosecution of his business organization meant other companies would see it as a reason not to station their businesses in New York.
‘Having politically motivated prosecutors, people who actually got elected because they will ‘get Donald Trump,’ is a very dangerous thing for our Country. In the end, people will not stand for it. Remember, if they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone! Why would anyone bring their company to New York, or even stay in New York, knowing these Radical Left Democrats would willingly target their company if viewed as a political opponent? It is devastating for New York!,’ Trump said.
He also claimed to be the victim after he saved the country from COVID.
‘These witch hunters are relentlessly seeking to destroy a reputation of a president who has done a great job for this country, including tax and regulation cuts, border control, rebuilding the military, and developing the vaccine in record time – thereby saving our country, and far beyond.
‘Washington, D.C. and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court, should finally stop these vicious, angry, and highly partisan prosecutors. They are a disgrace to our nation,’ he concluded.
Meanwhile, Fischetti said he was told the charges against the Trump Organization and its individual employees related to alleged failures to pay taxes on corporate benefits and perks.
That cash is said to have been paid by both Weisselberg and Trump, as a gift to Weisselberg’s son Barry, whose kids were attending the facility.
Prosecutors are believed to be probing whether those gifts should have been declared as such, which would have made them eligible for tax payments.
Charges will likely not be related to so-called ‘hush money’ payments that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said were made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.
‘Nothing. Not a word on that,’ he said.
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in October 2016, a month before the election, to stop her discussing the alleged affair with Trump, which Trump denied having. The New York Times reported that, in court documents, Cohen said Trump Organization officials were involved in the payoff. Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges on August 21, 2018, including a campaign finance violation, for his role in the payment.
Nor would the charges be related to concerns The Trump Organization used misleading valuations of its properties to deceive lenders, it is claimed.
‘We asked, ‘Is there anything else?’ Fischetti told Politico. ‘They said, ‘No.’
‘It’s crazy that that’s all they had,’ he added.
He noted he expects charges to be filed against the company this week or next.
The charges would be the first criminal allegations to emerge from Vance’s long-running investigation into Trump’s business work in New York.
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