One of Donald Trump’s key aides is expected to be charged on Thursday with failing to properly report company perks, including rent-free apartments and cars, in the latest stage of an escalating battle between New York prosecutors and the former president.
The Wall Street Journal reported the Manhattan district attorney’s is preparing to charge the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax-related crimes, the first criminal charges against the former president’s company since prosecutors began investigating it three years ago.
While no charges are expected against Trump on Thursday, more charges are likely. New York prosecutors are still investigating allegations of “hush money” paid to women who say they had sexual relations with Trump, and claims of real-estate price manipulation.
The charges and ongoing investigations are likely to be damaging both to the former president’s company and its relationships with banks and other business partners, and could cloud his political comeback.
Weisselberg, 73, began his career working for Fred Trump, Trump’s father, in 1973, working as a bookkeeper, and has served as the Trump Organization’s financial gatekeeper for more than two decades.
Prosecutors working for Cyrus Vance, Manhattan district attorney, and Letitia James, New York State attorney general, have been trying to push Weisselberg to cooperate with their investigations into the Trump empire, apparently with little success.
According to court filings, Allen and his son Barry Weisselberg, who also worked for Trump, received corporate perks and gifts potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Trump Organization. Failure to account properly for that money could put them in legal jeopardy.
Jennifer Weisselberg, Barry Weisselberg’s ex-wife, has been cooperating with prosecutors and has provided them with boxes of tax returns. The couple lived together, apparently rent free, in a Trump-owned unit in a building overlooking Central Park for five years.
Ahead of the charges being filed, Trump’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, called the case “embarrassing” and without merit.
“In my more than 50 years of practice, never before have I seen the district attorney’s office target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits,” such as company cars or apartments, he told Reuters.
In an interview with Politico Fischetti said: “It’s like the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. This is so small that I can’t believe I’m going to have to try a case like this.”
Trump released a statement on Monday night calling the prosecutors “rude, nasty and totally biased”.
“They continue to be ‘in search of a crime’ and will do anything to frighten people into making up the stories or lies that they want, but have been totally unable to get,” Trump said.