Not the ex-president, only his company and CFO Weisselberg are accused of crooked business. What could that mean for Trump himself and his presidential ambitions? The beginning of the end.
When Donald Trump was still in office, there were regular journalistic omissions to read about what would threaten the polarizing US president as soon as he could no longer hide behind the immunity of the office and his special rights as head of state. A myriad of legal processes for tax offenses and questionable deals would come his way. The ex-president has a “historical vulnerability before the law,” sounded the Washington Post months ago.
It has now been six months since Trump’s reluctant departure from the White House. There are no charges against him personally; major investigations that could be really dangerous to him, according to the US media, at most two.
One of them was last week’s news: The state prosecutor in New York state sued the Trump Organization for tax fraud, and its CFO Allen Weisselberg also for forgery, theft, conspiracy and other offenses. The company reportedly paid him $ 1.7 million in services that Weisselberg did not declare as income. In total, he is said to have evaded $ 900,000 in taxes.
Trump’s defense says this is a common practice in the US economy. He sees himself exposed to a political campaign. There could be a grain of truth in this, even if the prosecutors deny it. The prosecutor in charge is a democrat. It is also “extremely unusual” that a company is sued only for undeclared additional services, wrote the “New York Times”.
But that could only be the first stage. The next one is Trump himself. According to the US media, the prosecution intends to extend the indictment to the ex-president. In the extreme case, Trump would go behind bars. Political opponents have long hoped that some offense will remove the unloved and scandalous Trump from the political arena. So that Trump cannot or may not run for the presidential election again in 2024.
So far, Trump has always pulled his head out of the noose – or it was not very tear-resistant. One can speculate as to why the ex-president has not yet been directly charged. Either the investigators found nothing against him. Or they want to pound the 73-year-old Weisselberg soft with an offer, according to the motto: You can spend up to 15 years of your life behind bars. However, if you provide us with further material or statements for a charge against your boss, then we will reduce the sentence. Prosecutors have been trying to do this for months.
So far Weisselberg has held tight. He pleads not guilty. So the current indictment is the next step in escalation to get him to testify. If it comes to the process, it will begin in the coming year or even in 2023.
It is not without reason that Weisselberg has been the master of numbers for the Trump Organization for decades, which consists more of a loose alliance of employees. Trump once praised his chief financial officer for doing “everything necessary” “to protect the bottom line”. Mind you, “bottom line” can also be understood in a figurative sense.
The organization’s employees are woven into an old-school hierarchical structure: Nothing happens without the boss’s approval. Officially, this is Trump’s son Eric, but you can imagine what goes on behind the scenes. Even though the ex-president raised tens of millions of dollars in donations that he could use for his defense after being voted out of office, the Trump Organization is his entrepreneurial base. It mainly consists of hotels and real estate. Last year she lost $ 120 million.
The lawsuit has been initiated by Cyrus Vance, Manhattan attorney in New York City. Investigators have also had Donald Trump’s tax returns from 2011 onwards since February. The entrepreneur had never published it, possibly for good reason. It’s not the first time that prosecutors have tried to put their target behind bars for tax offenses when they’ve got other filth up their sleeves. One of the most prominent examples is Chicago’s crime boss Al Capone, who was convicted of tax evasion and money laundering in 1931.
The next hearing in the current lawsuit against Trump is scheduled for September 20. In the meantime, prosecutors are continuing to investigate and comb through millions of pages of Trump’s tax records and other documents.
It is only logical that the investigators may try to get to Trump via Weisselberg and extend the lawsuit to him. The confidante, one of Trump’s biographers tweeted, “knows where all the financial corpses are buried”. This coincides with statements made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, two years ago. At the time, he said that he and Weisselberg had paid hush money to Trump’s alleged sex affairs.
Cohen had broken with Trump and stated that he had incorrectly valued properties for his own benefit to authorities. Vance has spoken to Cohen several times about his ex-boss’s business. In this way there would be an opportunity to indict Trump directly – but possibly only if Weisselberg delivers Trump’s head to the legal knife after half a life in the service of the family. It would then potentially be about tax, banking and insurance fraud.
Three years to go until the presidential election
In addition to the investigation in New York, there are other lawsuits and investigations directed against Trump himself. Some of them have to do with what happened after the previous election. For example, two lawsuits are pending demanding compensation for the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. The basis is the so-called Ku Klux Klan law, which is intended to prevent the use of force against the work of the US Congress. It makes such uprisings legally a criminal offense.
But there is also positive news for Trump. The government of his successor Joe Biden makes no move to want to conduct any investigations against the political opponent. The findings of special investigator Robert Mueller on the obstruction of the judiciary or illegal campaign financing have so far had no consequences, writes the Bloomberg news agency. It also has to do with the new Attorney General Merrick Garland. He said that Trump’s behavior at the time was legitimized by his office.
Last week’s indictment, on the other hand, is a frontal attack on Trump’s life’s work: his political career and his companies at the same time. The Trump Organization was just himself from the start, as he has described in several of his books; it was about appearances, about looking bigger than he was. That has never really changed. When his defense lawyers consequently asked the prosecutors whether they want to indict Trump personally, they should have kept a low profile, according to the Washington Post: “Not now,” they said.
The next presidential election campaign is still a long way off; the Americans will not decide on Joe Biden’s second term or his successor until 2024. Trump has indicated on several occasions that he would run again. A criminal case that could drag on for years could become a problem for a Republican applicant like Trump, said the chairman of the “Great America PAC” of the “New York Times”. The Republican campaign organization supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 with many millions of dollars. “People will ask, why should I come back to you?” Ed Rollins is quoted as saying. “Why should I put money into your campaign?”