The trial against Donald Trump’s family business for fraud and tax evasion began in New York on Monday, which the former US President immediately dismissed as a political stunt.
Manhattan prosecutors have accused the Trump Organization, currently run by Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, of concealing compensation payments to top executives between 2005 and 2021.
Trump, who is not named in the case, criticized the indictment as a “witch hunt” by rivals weeks before the Nov. 8 congressional election.
“The highly partisan witch hunt by the Democrats continues, this time in New York … right during the important midterm elections, of course,” he said on social media.
If found guilty, the company faces a fine of over $1.5 million.
One of the executives involved, longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, has already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud and is scheduled to testify as part of a plea bargain against his former company.
Weisselberg, 75, a close friend of the Trump family, admitted he had made schemes with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school fees his grandchildren.
According to his pleading, Weisselberg has agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month sentence in exchange for testifying during the trial, for which jury selection began Monday.
“This agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a variety of criminal activities and requires Weisselberg to make invaluable testimony against the company in the upcoming trial,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in August.
Weisselberg has so far refused to make any statement directly implicating the former president in the scheme.
– Several legal cases –
Two subsidiaries of the Trump family’s sprawling real estate, golf and hospitality businesses are targeted by the suits.
While Donald Trump will not be named in this case, he is being charged along with three of his eldest children in a civil investigation led by New York Attorney General Leticia James.
James, a Democrat, has accused the family of deliberately increasing and decreasing the value of their homes to avoid tax liabilities and obtain cheaper credit and insurance deals.
Her office is asking for $250 million in fines against the former president and for his family to be prevented from doing business in the state.
The lawsuit also asks that three of Trump’s children – Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka – be banned from buying real estate in New York for five years.
Trump, 76, who has strongly hinted but not yet announced a 2024 White House run, is also facing legal action on several other fronts.
He is at the center of a Justice Department investigation into the handling of top-secret documents the FBI seized in a raid on his Florida home, as well as multiple state and federal investigations into his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The congressional committee investigating the Capitol riots has issued a subpoena asking it to submit documents by November 4 and provide affidavit by mid-November.
Without confirming that Trump received the subpoena, his attorney, David Warrington, said his team would “review and analyze” the document and “respond appropriately to this unprecedented action.”
Trump’s obedience would mean testifying under oath.
If he refuses, the House of Representatives can charge him with criminal contempt in a vote recommending him to be impeached.