Trump's Business May Go On Trial On Tax Charges Just Before The 2022 Elections
Updated September 20, 2021 at 1:38 PM ET
The judge hearing the tax fraud case against former President Donald Trump's family business and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, in New York City has set a schedule with a potential court trial starting in late August or early September 2022, just months before the midterm elections.
That timing, as well as a potential conviction against his family business, could cast a pall over any efforts by Trump to drum up support for Republican candidates. And with multiple investigations still underway, the legal cloud hanging over Trump's world may be getting larger, lawyers on Weisselberg's defense team suggested during a court hearing on Monday.
"We have strong reason to believe there could be other indictments coming," said Bryan Skarlatos, one of Weisselberg's attorneys.
Trump's family business is accused of defrauding taxpayers
Their appearance at the New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan came almost three months after Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. unsealed a bevy of criminal charges that alleged the Trump Organization and Weisselberg took part in a more than 15-year scheme to defraud taxpayers by paying company executives with untaxed benefits.
Weisselberg, who has been employed by the Trump family since 1973, and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty to the allegations. The former president has said the case is politically motivated.
"We have studied the indictment and it is full of unsupported and flawed factual and legal assertions regarding Allen Weisselberg," Skarlatos and Mary Mulligan, one of Weisselberg's other attorneys, said in a statement. "We look forward to challenging those assertions in court."
The lawyers are expected to be back in court before New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan in July 2022.
Prosecutors have not stopped investigating the Trump family's business
Behind the scenes, and while proceedings play out in court, prosecutors with Vance's office have been continuing to work with New York state Attorney General Letitia James' office on an ongoing probe into Trump's business dealings in New York. There are plenty of signs that Vance and James are aggressively working on this case, including an unannounced court appearance in August by attorneys for both Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.
"The fact that they are having sealed proceedings is consistent with an ongoing grand jury investigation and suggests the district attorney may be considering further charges or defendants," said Adam Kaufmann, a former investigations division chief at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office who is currently a partner with the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss.
The son of the Trump Organization's COO has testified
In August, Matthew Calamari Jr. — the Trump Organization's corporate director of security and son of the chief operating officer, Matthew Calamari Sr. — testified before a grand jury, an attorney for both father and son confirmed in a statement. Grand jury witnesses, according to New York state law, generally cannot be prosecuted for what they said.
"He is a model citizen, has never violated any law, and is glad to have the distraction behind him," the attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., said of Calamari Jr.
Asked after Monday's hearing whether Calamari Sr. could be indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Gravante said he and his client "continue to believe there is no basis for indicting him."
"If they presently intended to indict him, I would have been informed. I haven't been and, in fact, have been informed to the contrary," Gravante added.
Vance's investigation started in 2018 around the time Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges related to payments of hush money to women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with Trump.
The Trump Organization may also ultimately face civil charges as part of a related investigation James' office launched in 2019 after Cohen told Congress that Trump manipulated the value of his properties to obtain bank loans and lower his tax obligations.
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