Trump Organization could face criminal charges in New York next week
The Manhattan district attorney has informed lawyers for Donald Trump that criminal charges against the Trump Organization are possible, a lawyer for Trump confirmed on Friday.
The New York Times first reported that possible charges against the former president’s company were related to “fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive”.
Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, has widely been reported to be the target of such investigations.
Citing “several people with knowledge of the matter”, the Times said charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization could be unveiled as soon as next week.
“While the prosecutors had been building a case for months against Mr Weisselberg as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with the inquiry,” the paper said, “it was not previously known that the company also might face charges.”
Ron Fischetti, a lawyer for the Trump family, called the likely charges “completely outrageous” and told NBC News: “Mr Trump is outraged that they are still going after him by going after his company where he has loyal employees for decades.”
Trump’s legal problems have mounted since he left the White House and lost the protections of office. Charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization could deal a significant blow to Trump’s ambitions of returning to frontline politics.
Trump, who recently turned 75, maintains control over the Republican party and dominates polls of potential nominees for president in 2024. He is set to speak at a rally in Cleveland, Ohio, this weekend, his first such gathering since leaving office.
Analysts caution that questions over Trump’s tax affairs and other controversies arising from his business career did little to damage him as he surged to the White House, then governed for four tempestuous years.
As Francisco I Pedraza, a political scientist at University of California Riverside, told the Guardian earlier this month: “The majority of the evidence that we have on hand says that people who like Trump don’t care what he does – it just doesn’t matter if he breaks the law.”
As the Times reported, though Trump has derided the investigation by New York attorney general Cyrus Vance Jr as “a ‘witch-hunt’, he unsuccessfully tried to fight a subpoena from Vance’s office seeking eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, a fight that twice reached the United States supreme court”.
Weisselberg is widely believed to be under pressure to cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for leniency. Jeff McConney, a senior vice-president and controller for the Trump Organization, has reportedly testified before a special grand jury.
Daniel R Alonso, a partner at Buckley LLP’s New York office and former chief assistant district attorney in Manhattan, told the Guardian this month that if prosecutors were targeting Weisselberg, it was “an obvious move to get the testimony of the controller on record.
“It appears from the reporting that he’s getting immunity. They either don’t think that he has criminal exposure or if he does, they’re more interested in getting people higher up on the food chain.”
It was also reported this week that Matthew Calamari, a former bodyguard now chief operating officer for the Trump Organization, is also under investigation.
Prosecutors did not immediately comment on Friday.
Fischetti told NBC the Trump Organization would plead not guilty and seek dismissal, and said: “I’ve been practicing for over 50 years, and I’ve never seen a case like this.
“They could not get Allen Weisselberg to cooperate and tell them what they wanted to hear, and that’s why they are going forward with these charges.
“They could not get him to cooperate because he would not say that Donald Trump had knowledge or any information that he may have been not deducting properly the use of cars or an apartment.”
Additional reporting by Victoria Bekiempis