Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer are expected to be criminally charged on Thursday in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Charges by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance have been expected to focus on whether Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and other officials received perks and benefits such as rent-free apartments and leased cars without reporting them properly on their tax returns, people familiar with the probe have said.
The person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Weisselberg and the company were expected to be arraigned on an indictment on Thursday. Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, told Reuters on Monday that he expected the charges to be tax related.
Mary Mulligan, a lawyer for Mr. Weisselberg, declined to comment on possible charges. Mr. Vance’s office also declined to comment. Lawyers for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Trump, a Republican, was not expected to be charged himself, according to people involved in the case.
In a statement on Monday, the former president called prosecutors biased and said his company’s actions were “in no way a crime.” Mr. Fischetti also said on Monday that Mr. Vance’s case is without merit, and he had never in the past half a century seen the district attorney’s office target a company over fringe benefits.
An indictment could imperil the Trump Organization by causing banks and business partners to stop doing business with it, and result in fines and other penalties if the company were found guilty.
Charges also could increase pressure on Mr. Weisselberg to co-operate with prosecutors, which he has resisted. Mr. Weisselberg is a close Trump confidant, making his co-operation potentially crucial to any future case against Mr. Trump himself.
Court filings, public records and subpoenaed documents have shown that Mr. Weisselberg and his son Barry have received perks and gifts potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including many benefits related to real estate.
More charges could be filed against the Trump Organization or officers there, people familiar with the case have said.
Mr. Vance, a Democrat, has in his nearly three-year-old investigation examined an array of potential wrongdoing, including whether Mr. Trump’s company manipulated the value of its real estate to reduce its taxes and secure favourable loan terms.
Prior to entering the White House in January, 2017, Mr. Trump had put his company into a trust overseen by his adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg, who has maintained tight control over its finances. It is unclear what role Mr. Trump now has at the company.
The case could also complicate Mr. Trump’s political future, as he flirts with a possible 2024 White House run.
Prosecutors in Mr. Vance’s office accelerated their focus on the Trump Organization’s use of perks and benefits last fall.
Jennifer Weisselberg, the former wife of Barry Weisselberg, has met with prosecutors half a dozen times, and according to her lawyer has provided boxes of tax and bank records as well as financial statements.
In an interview with MSNBC, Jennifer Weisselberg said she would be prepared to testify.
“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “I’m ready. I’m prepared and that’s what I’m preparing. My documents at this time are witnesses themselves. They are being used, and they’re being walked through the grand jury panel.”
“We’ve been going through questions pertaining to compensation, perks and taxes just to review how to … inform a grand jury,” she added.
Mr. Trump was visiting the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, as Republicans attacked U.S. President Joe Biden over the rise in migrants caught entering the United States.
Even if Mr. Trump is not charged by Mr. Vance, the former president still faces at least 17 other investigations and lawsuits.
These include a criminal investigation into whether the former president tried to improperly influence Georgia election officials to ensure he would defeat Mr. Biden in that state’s 2020 presidential vote. They also include defamation lawsuits by two women who said Mr. Trump lied when he denied having sexually assaulted them.
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