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Donald Trump knew about the executives’ tax evasion scheme


NEW YORK (AP) Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with senior Trump Organization executives who had been plotting for years to dodge taxes on benefits paid by the company, a prosecutor said Thursday, disputing the claims of the defense that the former president was unaware of the conspiracy at the heart of the company’s tax evasion case.

Manhattan District Attorney Joshua Steinglass launched the bombshell allegation during closing arguments. He promised to share more details when he resumed on Friday, backed by the judges’ decision to allow prosecutors to head into territory that had been deemed off-limits because Trump is not on trial.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, overturning a defense objection after the jury left, said the company’s attorneys opened the door by claiming in their closing arguments that Trump was unaware of the scheme, hatched by his longtime chief financial officer. date just steps from his Trump Tower office. .

It was the defense that repeatedly invoked Donald Trump’s name, Merchan said, setting up a potentially explosive final day of arguments before jurors deliberate next week.

Prosecutors had given mixed signals about Trump’s importance to the case, early on telling a judge the case was not about Donald Trump but repeatedly questioning witnesses about him; show a witness copies of Trump’s tax returns and ultimately seek to tie him to it in closing arguments.

Trump denied any knowledge of the scheme, writing on his Truth Social platform on Tuesday: There was no gain for Trump, and we had no knowledge of it.

Steinglass said the Trump Organization cultivated a culture of fraud and deception by offering luxury perks to leaders and falsifying records to hide compensation.

Steinglass’ sometimes fiery summons followed defense arguments that sought to pin blame for the fraud on Allen Weisselberg, the senior adviser and former chief financial officer who admitted to conspiring to avoid paying personal income taxes on a company-paid apartment, luxury cars, and other goodies.

Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg, Trump Organization attorney Michael Van der Veen told jurors, punctuating his closing argument with the defense teams’ mantra for the month-long trial.

Steinglass pushed back when it was his turn, telling jurors: Both halves of that sentence are false. It wasn’t just Weisselberg who did it and it wasn’t just Weisselberg who profited from it.

The Trump Organization, the entity through which Trump runs his real estate and other businesses, is accused of helping Weisselberg and other executives avoid paying taxes on benefits paid by the company.

Steinglass argued that the Trump Organization, through its Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., is responsible because Weisselberg and a subordinate he worked with, Comptroller Jeffrey McConney, were senior officers charged with acting on behalf of the company and its various entities.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who watched Steinglass close from the courtroom gallery, said his office’s investigation into Trump is active and ongoing, and no decision has been made. was taken on the advisability of indicting him.

But lawyers for the company argued that Weisselberg only intended to profit from his tax evasion scheme, not the Trump Organization, and that the company should not be blamed for its transgressions. .

We’re here today for one reason and one reason only: Allen Weisselberg’s greed, Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles said, his remarks accompanied at one point by the whine of a vehicle siren. emergency outside.

The tax evasion case is the only lawsuit to stem from Manhattan District attorneys’ three-year investigation into Trump and his business practices. Thursday’s closing arguments were the last chance for prosecutors and defense attorneys to influence jurors before deliberating next week.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to dodging taxes on extras of $1.7 million and testified against the Trump Organization in exchange for a promised five-month prison sentence.

Weisselberg has worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years, starting as an accountant for his real estate developer father Fred Trump in 1973 before joining the Donald Trump company in 1986.

Along the way, he made a mistake. He became greedy. Once he started, it was hard for him to stop, Necheles said.

Necheles argued that the case against the company is tenuous and that the 1965 state law underlying some of the charges requires prosecutors to show that Weisselberg intended to benefit the company, not only to himself.

Weisselberg testified that he conspired to hide his benefits with McConney by adjusting payroll records to deduct their cost from his salary.

The arrangement reduced Weisselberg’s tax liability, while saving the company money as he didn’t have to give him a big raise to cover the cost of benefits and additional taxes he would have. incurred.

I knew in my mind there was a benefit to the business, Weisselberg testified.

But Necheles argued that any benefit to the company was incidental, minimal and unintended.

He atones for his sins, but as part of the plea deal, the prosecution forced him to testify against the company he helped start, Necheles told jurors. Now, the prosecution case hinges on one thing: convincing you, the jurors, that Mr. Weisselberg’s actions were made in the name of the company.

You will see that there was no such intention, added Necheles. The purpose of Mr. Weisselberg’s crimes was to benefit Mr. Weisselberg.


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