Charges Are Expected Shortly Against Trump Organization And CFO Weisselberg
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today in New York, the chief financial officer for former President Donald Trump's family business has surrendered to authorities. Allen Weisselberg is expected to be charged with financial crimes following a three-year probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Reporter Ilya Marritz is here with details. Ilya, thanks for being here.
ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: Good to be here.
MARTIN: First, what can we say about the meaning of this moment? I mean, a former president has never been charged with breaking the law. But the indictment we're going to hear today comes very close.
MARRITZ: Trump the man and Trump the business are, of course, literally synonymous. And Donald Trump is so attached to his business, he was unwilling to divest from it or put it in a blind trust after he was elected president. Now, Trump and his business have been in court thousands of times over the years. They have sued people, and they've been sued. You might remember the Trump University case, in which Trump was accused of operating a sham university and he settled - or the Trump Foundation case, where he was accused of running a fake charity to benefit himself. And he settled that one, too. Every one of these court cases has always been civil, never criminal. And that's what makes the arraignment we're expecting this afternoon so noteworthy. For the first time, the Trump business is criminally charged. Criminal cases, of course, come with higher potential penalties and possible serious reputational damage.
MARTIN: Although, we should just underscore, Donald Trump is not being indicted himself today. What can you tell us about the arraignment and the exact charges that the Trump Organization is likely to face?
MARRITZ: These are the crimes that Vance has said he was looking into, scheme to defraud, falsification of business records, insurance fraud and criminal tax fraud - all state-level crimes. We don't know whether these crimes or others will ultimately be charged today because the criminal complaint isn't yet public. We do know that in recent months, prosecutors have been looking closely at whether or not taxes were paid on non-salary forms of compensation for Trump Organization employees. Now, it's pretty common for companies to sometimes pay their employees with little extras. But at the Trump Organization, it went beyond that. And we know this because Allen Weisselberg, the CFO, his son, Barry, also works for Trump. And a few years ago when Barry Weisselberg got divorced, his assets and income were part of that proceeding. So Jennifer Weisselberg's attorney, Duncan Levin, told us that Trump Org paid way more than mere perks.
DUNCAN LEVIN: These are multimillion dollar apartments and tuitions to the most expensive private schools in the world and renovations of marble and other, you know, high-end appliances. And the core of this is serious.
MARRITZ: So the question here is whether taxes were paid on those perks. And if prosecutors allege they were not, can they prove it?
MARTIN: So you mentioned, Ilya, that prosecutors were looking into other crimes beyond the tax fraud charges. If that is all that's alleged today, the tax fraud, is that the end of the story here?
MARRITZ: It would be really surprising. This has been a three-year investigation. Donald Trump took Cyrus Vance all the way to the Supreme Court twice in an effort to block him from getting his financial records, like tax returns. And we know that early on, Vance examined hush money payments made to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, went to jail over that. Trump was never charged. Vance has also looked into real estate valuations. So I'm going to be watching very closely to see, A, what crime or crimes are charged. There are, of course, only allegations. And, B, whether the indictment tells a story about business practices at the Trump Organization. And if it does tell us something about how Trump does business, that may also suggest additional charges that could be filed down the line.
MARTIN: Ilya, just briefly, what are the logistics of the arraignment today?
MARRITZ: It's going to happen around 2 o'clock in downtown Manhattan. We have asked Trump's and Weisselberg's lawyers for comment. They didn't offer any. But Donald Trump has always maintained his innocence and said this investigation is politically motivated.
MARTIN: Reporter Ilya Marritz. Thank you.
MARRITZ: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.