The first accusations in the Trump Organization investigation concerned CFO Allen Weisselberg.
The focus prosecutors have on Weisselberg indicates that he is still the key to nailing Donald Trump himself.
Experts say they wouldn’t be surprised if additional indictments, filed against more people, alleged more serious crimes.
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This month’s 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg has puzzled some observers of the Manhattan prosecutor’s long-standing investigation into the finances of the company.
Why didn’t prosecutors indict Donald Trump himself? Prosecutors went so far as to refer to the ex-president in the indictment and criticize him in court.
And what about larger allegations the DA’s office is investigating, including the two sets of books the company is said to be keeping to lower its tax bill while still getting good loan rates? Or that secret cash payment from Stormy Daniels?
The July 1 grand jury indictment accused Weisselberg and the Trump Organization of participating in a scheme in which Weisselberg collected $ 1.7 million in tax-free compensation over a 15-year period. Weisselberg and the company’s lawyers have pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
But the investigation is still ongoing. The grand jury is expected to meet at least until November to weigh additional charges. And before the first round of accusations, prosecutors had gone to great lengths to “get” Weisselberg to cooperate with the investigation.
The focus prosecutors have on Weisselberg remains key to understanding the investigation, according to legal experts.
Weisselberg has worked closely with Trump, who shuns emails and rarely leaves a paper trail, for decades. Getting him to cooperate remains one of the only ways prosecutors can determine whether Trump is involved in wrongdoing, according to E. Danya Perry, defense attorney and former New York State and federal prosecutor.
“You need the other guy in the room,” Perry told Insider. “And it looks like it would be Weisselberg.”
Further charges are likely
Indictment Says Weisselberg was “One of the Largest Individual Beneficiaries of the Defendants’ Program” to receive benefits such as apartments, cars and money from the Trump Organization without paying taxes .
But prosecutors did not press charges against any other person mentioned in the indictment. This specificity indicates that the first indictment is a small part of a larger case that Manhattan prosecutors are still building, Perry says.
“Focusing their initial underlying indictment on Weisselberg himself makes sense, and its scope is quite narrow,” said Perry, co-author of a Brookings analysis on the investigation. “It could very well be archery – [to show] that’s what they have on Weisselberg, and if they can return it, then they could bend other defendants in this indictment. “
Randy Zelin, former New York State attorney and defense attorney at Wilk Auslander LLP, told Insider that a sentence from prosecutors included in the indictment that Weisselberg is “one of the most large individual beneficiaries “of the tax system should be understood as a” very sharp message “that more indictments are to come.
It’s a signal to others who have worked on the finances of the Trump Organization that they should cooperate with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Zelin said.
“The indictment draws attention,” Zelin said. “It’s about trying to smoke people.”
Perry pointed out that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. hired Mark Pomerantz, a longtime prosecutor who had attacked Mafia bosses, to help him with the investigation earlier this year. . Pomerantz appeared friendly with Mary Mulligan, Weisselberg’s lawyer, in court ahead of the start of proceedings for the arraignment of the chief financial officer earlier this month.
It is unlikely that Vance installed Pomerantz in the role – and that his office reviewed perhaps millions of pages of tax documents – for a simple case of untaxed benefits, Perry said.
“From experience, it would not be unprecedented – or even unusual – to have a tightly targeted underlying indictment that is [meant to] persuade a potential witness to cooperate, “Perry said.” And then replace with additional charges against additional defendants and / or a wider range of charges. “
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