What's Next For The Trump Organization After Tax Crimes Charge
NOEL KING, HOST:
Former President Trump's business and his longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg are accused of tax fraud. Prosecutors in New York City unsealed a 15-count indictment yesterday. They say The Trump Organization engaged in a 15-year scheme to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. Reporter Andrea Bernstein has been covering this story for NPR and was in the courtroom yesterday. Good morning, Andrea.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: Donald Trump himself was not charged in this indictment. But this is his family's company. What was his alleged involvement?
BERNSTEIN: So you see traces of Donald Trump all through the indictment. He personally signed a check, according to the indictment, to his chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg's grandchildren's school's tuition. He signed a lease for an apartment that Weisselberg allegedly used to avoid paying taxes.
But more than that, what is laid out is this protracted criminal scheme that was purportedly carried out by senior executives in The Trump Organization. This is the company that bears his name. Donald Trump was so connected to the company that he refused to divest himself when he was president. So what we see is this scheme was allegedly carried out to cheat the very government that he was in charge of while president. I want to be clear. Trump has always denied wrongdoing. He has not been charged. And both his company and chief financial officer have pleaded not guilty.
KING: What else did you learn at the arraignment about the allegations?
BERNSTEIN: So the scheme was allegedly broad in scope. There were Mercedes-Benz leases that were allegedly paid by the company that were for Weisselberg's personal use, the tuition I mentioned, holiday entertainment - which were checks for cash allegedly paid back to Weisselberg that he would get bonuses from other Trump companies, like Mar-a-Lago, that he called himself an independent consultant when he wasn't. And also, there were these very careful records allegedly kept which showed this scheme, which showed how he had a total compensation. And each of these things that were alleged tax dodges were set against that to offset the compensation.
KING: All right. So ultimately, what implications could these charges have for Allen Weisselberg and for Trump's business?
BERNSTEIN: Well, on the one hand, Weisselberg, who has been an employee of the company for almost 50 years, entered court yesterday in handcuffs. It was a very dramatic moment. But he left. He did not have to pay any bail. He could go back to work. He could be there today up in Trump Tower, which is a far cry from the sort of shoddy criminal courthouse in New York.
But things get complicated when a company and its chief financial officer are charged with crimes. There can be problems getting financing, bank loans. There can be problems with existing loans. You have to attest as a company that you're not lying, and now this company is charged with a 15-year scheme of lying. So while Trump's business has suffered reputational damage - for example, after the Capitol riots - this brings it to a new level, being actually charged with serious crimes in New York.
KING: Now, we know that the Manhattan district attorney went to the Supreme Court twice to try to get Trump's tax returns, hired a team of prosecutors and forensic accountants, went through millions of pages of documents. Where does the investigation go from here?
BERNSTEIN: So yesterday, both the attorney general of New York, Letitia James, who has a separate civil suit, and the DA sat in front of the courtroom but then said nothing afterwards. They pointedly said the investigation is ongoing. In court, prosecutors sought a protective order to keep evidence from disclosure to other people they might be investigating - other executives, the former president or his family. And the last count of the indictment points interestingly to a relationship between Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump, that Weisselberg had an entry deleted in Donald Trump's ledger. That is a very strong hint that the DA's office is still digging into the relationship, and there's more to come.
KING: Reporter Andrea Bernstein, thanks for your reporting. We appreciate it.
BERNSTEIN: Great to talk to you.
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