Trump Organization attorneys given Monday deadline to persuade prosecutors not to file charges

New York prosecutors have told former President Donald Trump’s attorneys and those working for the Trump Organization that they must respond by Monday with any final arguments as to why criminal charges shouldn’t be filed against his family business. 

The Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the matter, said the deadline was another strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

Both prosecutors are now working together to probe Trump’s alleged wrongdoing. They are believed to be probing whether the former president’s corporation lied about the value of its assets to benefit from more favorable tax payments, as well as terms on loans it took out.   

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Vance could announce charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, as soon as this week. Weisselberg has refused to turn on Trump, according to the Post.

Earlier this year, it was reported prosecutors inquiries were centering on payments made to Weisselberg’s grandkids private school, Columbia Grammar and Prep. Both Trump and Weisselberg are reported to have paid the fees for Weisselberg’s son Barry, whose two children attended the Manhattan school. The probe centers on whether those payments – said to total $500,000 – should have been declared as a gift for tax purposes. 

The Manhattan district attorney¿s office has informed Donald Trump ¿s lawyers that it has until later on Monday to persuade prosectors not to bring criminal charges against The Trump Organization in connection with benefits the company awarded its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg (seen between Trump and Donald Trump Jr)

The Manhattan district attorney¿s office has informed Donald Trump ¿s lawyers that it has until later on Monday to persuade prosectors not to bring criminal charges against The Trump Organization in connection with benefits the company awarded its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg (seen between Trump and Donald Trump Jr)

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald Trump ’s lawyers that it has until later on Monday to persuade prosectors not to bring criminal charges against The Trump Organization in connection with benefits the company awarded its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg (seen between Trump and Donald Trump Jr)

It's unclear if Trump himself would face charges

It's unclear if Trump himself would face charges

It’s unclear if Trump himself would face charges

Trump Organization lawyer Ron Fischetti said he met virtually with prosecutors Thursday for around 1 1/2 hours to try and persuade them not to seek a criminal indictment against the company, but that the charges would not be unexpected.

‘The charges are absolutely outrageous and unprecedented, if indeed the charges are filed. This is just to get back at Donald Trump,’ he said on Friday. ‘We’re going to plead not guilty and we’ll make a motion to dismiss.’

Trump and Weisselberg deny claims of wrongdoing, with Trump branding the latest probe into him another Democrat-led ‘witch hunt.’  

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment. 

Any criminal charges would be the first in Vance’s probe into Trump and his business dealings.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the matter say the investigation has reached a critical point. A grand jury was recently empaneled 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. 

Prosecutors have been scrutinizing Trump’s tax records, sought subpoenas documents and interviewing witnesses, including Trump insiders and company executives. 

Legal experts have said an indictment against the Trump Organization could bankrupt the company by undermining its relationships with banks and other business partners.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a long-running investigation into Donald Trump's businesses

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a long-running investigation into Donald Trump's businesses

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a long-running investigation into Donald Trump’s businesses

Vance’s office has said it was investigating ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct’ at the Trump Organization, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.

It is possible that no charges will be brought.

Vance’s probe nevertheless could complicate any return to politics by Trump, who has lost some of his ability to communicate publicly after being permanently banned from Twitter and suspended for two years by Facebook.

James’ office has been investigating whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of some properties to obtain better terms on loans, and lowered their values to obtain property tax breaks.

They have also looked into the company’s role in paying hush money to two women who say Trump had affairs with them, accusations Trump has denied.

Some of the scrutiny has been focused on longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.

Vance’s investigation of Weisselberg, 73, stemmed in part from questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost, cars leased for the family and tuition payments made to a school attended by Weisselberg´s grandchildren.

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

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

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

Court filings and records subpoenaed in the investigation show that Weisselberg and his son Barry received corporate perks and gifts worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in their years associated with the Trump Organization.

There’s nothing illegal about companies giving lavish perks to valued employees, but in many circumstances those benefits count as compensation subject to income tax. 

If they failed to account properly for that money on tax returns and other financial filings, they could be in legal jeopardy, legal experts have said.

Weisselberg’s attorney, Mary Mulligan, declined to comment.

Fischetti said any charges against the company based on fringe benefits would be overreach by prosecutors.

‘We looked back 100 years of cases and we haven’t found one in which an employee has been indicted for fringe benefits – and certainly not a corporation,’ he said. For it to be a crime, he said, ‘it would have to be for the benefit of the corporation with the knowledge of the corporation. They don’t have the evidence at all.’

Who’s who in New York criminal probe into Trump 

New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)

New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)

New York state has opened a criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump (pictured November 2020)

A Democratic prosecutor nearing the end of his term, a loyal lieutenant of the Trump family and a lawyer determined to sink his former boss: AFP details some of the players in New York’s criminal probe into Donald Trump.

Cyrus Vance

The 66-year-old Democrat has been Manhattan District Attorney since 2010. He was the first to launch a criminal investigation into the Republican ex-president.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (pictured May 2020) has doggedly pursued Donald Trump, winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation

Vance, whose father was US Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, has sometimes been accused of a reluctance to prosecute the rich and powerful.

He delayed filing charges against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein before securing a landmark conviction last year.

Vance has doggedly pursued Trump, though, first by winning a years-long battle to obtain his tax records and secondly by deploying significant human and financial resources to the politically sensitive investigation.

He has announced that he will not run for a fourth term when his current one expires in December, and many observers expect him to go out with a bang by filing what would be the first indictment against a former US president.

Letitia James

The Democrat became the first Black woman to become New York state attorney general in 2018.

Since then, the 62-year-old has forged a reputation as a combative and independent prosecutor, filing countless civil actions against large companies, particularly tech giants, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic

In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic

In addition to Donald Trump, Letitia James (pictured August 2020) is also investigating New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic

When Trump was in the White House, James launched dozens of civil actions against his government.

She is also investigating New York’s powerful Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, over sexual harassment allegations and his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

James has been cited as a possible successor to Cuomo, particularly if her investigation forces him to resign.

Allen Weisselberg

The 73-year-old is the Trump Organization’s long-serving chief financial officer and one of the family’s most loyal servants.

He began as an accountant for Trump’s father’s company before joining the Trump Organization as financial controller in the 1980s when Donald established himself as a Manhattan real estate mogul.

Allen Weisselberg, pictured standing behind former president Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr. in January 2017, has served as the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization since the 1980s

Weisselberg has been around for all of Trump’s entrepreneurial adventures, including when his Atlantic City casinos went bust.

According to Barbara Res, a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization, Weisselberg ‘thought Trump was a god,’ she told the Daily News.

Investigators believe Weisselberg knows all of the Trump family secrets and have been putting pressure on him for months to cooperate with their investigation.

Observers are closely watching whether Weisselberg will turn against his former boss.

Michael Cohen

Trump’s ex-personal lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws relating to Trump’s 2016 vote win.

Cohen was one of Trump’s closest henchmen for a decade, once proudly boasting that he was prepared to ‘take a bullet’ for the real estate mogul-turned-president.

Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump's legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast

Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump's legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast

Michael Cohen, pictured March 2021, openly rejoices in former boss Donald Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast

He turned against his former boss, though, deciding to collaborate with federal investigators in Manhattan.

During a Congressional hearing in February 2019, Cohen alleged — among other things — that Trump regularly undervalued or overvalued his assets, both with banks and insurance companies.

Cohen openly rejoices in Trump’s legal troubles on Twitter and through his podcast ‘Mea Culpa.’

Source: AFP

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