What to watch ahead of Trump Org. tax fraud trial this week

Business

FILE – The Trump Organization’s former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg arrives at court, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(The Hill) – The Manhattan District Attorney Office’s long-awaited trial against the Trump Organization begins on Monday, coming three years after authorities began investigating the business for alleged tax fraud.

The Trump Organization is accused of helping top executives avoid income taxes on compensation and luxury perks. Former President Donald Trump is not personally accused of any crime in this case.

Jury selection begins on Monday and the trial could last more than a month.

Here’s what you need to know about the trial beginning this week at the New York State Supreme Court.

Former CFO will take center stage

Longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg will testify as a star witness in the Manhattan trial in return for a reduced sentence.

He was charged with tax fraud last year and pleaded guilty this August to 15 counts related to tax evasion.

Prosecutors said Weisselberg earned nearly $2 million in off-the-books compensation over a decade from the Trump Organization, including perks like a Mercedes-Benz for him and his wife.

Weisselberg has intimate knowledge of the company’s financial dealings.

The company’s corporate leadership — consisting of the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp. — allegedly orchestrated a scheme from 2005 to June 2021 to assist executives in avoiding paying taxes on perks like fancy cars and luxurious, rent-free apartments, according to the indictment.

The Trump Organization’s senior vice president and controller, Jeffrey McConney, was given limited immunity to testify last year and could also appear at the trial.

Trump will not attend or testify

The Trump Organization controls the former president’s real estate properties, golf courses and even his media and television pursuits.

While Trump himself signed off on some checks in question, he is not on trial. He also will not be testifying or even attending the trial.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) has said the investigation is ongoing and Trump could still face criminal charges.

Trump has called the case a witch hunt, while the Trump Organization has denied the allegations and said it looked forward to having its day in court.

Trump Organization faces fine of more than $1 million

The Trump Organization faces a maximum fine of $1.7 million if the business is found guilty of the charges, according to the New York Times.

But that’s likely to be a slap on the wrist compared to the company’s annual profits.

The Trump Organization consists of around 500 entities but is privately owned, meaning it does not risk a falling stock price from a guilty verdict.

Trump is unlikely to suffer serious political damage regardless of the outcome, but a guilty verdict could hamper his company’s ability to get loans and make deals. New York City, for one, could use the legal cloud as new justification for seeking to oust the company from running a city-owned golf course.

First trial involving Trump since he left office

This is the first trial involving Trump since he left the White House last January.

Trump faces several other cases, including two separate Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations: one probing whether he violated any laws by stashing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and another related to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

A Fulton County, Ga., grand jury is also investigating Trump’s efforts to sway the 2020 election results in the state.

New York Attorney General Letitia James also filed a separate lawsuit seeking to stop the Trump Organization from doing business in the state.

That case, slated to begin Oct. 31, accuses the business of inflating and deflating property valuations for financial gain.

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