Five things to know about Weisselberg’s guilty plea

Thursday’s guilty plea by former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg is a major development in New York officials’ multi-year investigation into the company run by former President Trump.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 separate counts, including grand theft and criminal tax evasion in an indictment filed in New York State Supreme Court, admitting what authorities described as a scheme 15-year tax evasion to skip taxes owed on $1.76 million in income that was not reported to the IRS.

Weisselberg has been promised a five-month sentence in New York’s Rikers Island prison – although that could be shortened to just over three months – as well as five years’ probation. He will also be required to make full repayment of taxes, penalties and interest owed to New York and New York State tax authorities totaling $1,994,321.

Here are five things to know about Weisselberg’s plea deal.

Advocacy can be a consolation prize

The plea deal from a Trump Organization representative close to the former president may look like a consolation prize for prosecutors who have been trying for a year to get Weisselberg to turn against Trump himself and not just Trump’s company.

Their goal was to find evidence that the former president had engaged in criminal activity, and securing the cooperation of a key Trump lieutenant like Weisselberg for their investigation might have been a step in that direction.

“It’s been widely reported publicly that the DA’s office was aggressively trying to turn Weisselberg against individuals and against Trump in particular, and he obviously resisted that and refused to deliver,” Danya Perry, a former U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District from New York. York, told The Hill in an interview.

But Weisselberg did not roll over. In fact, The New York Times reported that right after the deal was struck, the Trump Organization threw a birthday party for Weisselberg at Trump Tower.

Legal experts draw a stark distinction between the kind of plea deal Weisselberg agreed to and a true cooperative deal with federal prosecutors that could have led to far more substantive disclosures about the former president and his business practices.

“He got a plea deal. He didn’t get a co-op deal,” Perry said.

Legal experts say the plea deal could actually be one step away from suing Trump.

“The case against Donald Trump no longer seems to have a life,” Daniel Alonso, who served as chief assistant prosecutor under former Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr., told The Hill. “This deal certainly doesn’t mean Trump will be prosecuted. It probably means the opposite. It really doesn’t incriminate him.

Plea deal will factor into Trump Organization lawsuit

Weisselberg’s plea deal requires him to testify when the Trump Organization faces its own trial in October, and it could turn into a big win for prosecutors this fall as they get to the heart of Trump’s job.

The Trump Organization is on trial on nine of 15 counts against Weisselberg himself, which include charges of criminal tax evasion, conspiracy and falsifying business records.

The testimony of Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, could make things difficult for the company.

“It’s going to make this defense very, very complicated for the Trump organization,” Perry said.

Former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Weissman told The Hill in an interview that Weisselberg’s plea deal is going to make it much more difficult to defend the Trump Organization.

“Because an organization is acting through its staff, it’s the CFO who says he did that, and those aren’t crimes unrelated to the organization, and the organization has them. benefited directly,” he said.

There’s a big open question about Weisselberg’s deal with prosecutors

Legal experts say there is a big unanswered question about the Weisselberg deal.

What if prosecutors decide he hasn’t “testified truthfully” in the upcoming Trump Organization trial, as his plea deal requires him to do?

“The Court has promised Weisselberg a five-month prison sentence to be served on Rikers Island and five years probation, subject to Weisselberg testifying honestly at the upcoming Trump Organization criminal trial by providing truthful testimony about the facts underlying his address and plea,” the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Thursday.

But if they ask him about what Trump knew during the trial, and Weisselberg says he knew nothing, then prosecutors could say he’s not entirely telling the truth, and then all bets on the conviction could be overturned.

“That’s the only open question,” Alonso said. “What if he testifies that Trump had no knowledge of these schemes? Would the prosecutor still vouch for Weisselberg’s veracity? »

Experts say the halfway nature of the plea deal, which is not a co-op deal but requires testimony, makes it something of an oddity.

“I’ve never heard of a deal like this,” Alonso said.

Weisselberg was not granted immunity from other crimes

Appropriate cooperation agreements with federal prosecutors usually come with an immunity clause that states that cooperating witnesses will not be charged with other unrelated crimes. The Weisselberg agreement does not contain such a clause.

Andrew Weissmann and Danya Perry both said they were interested that Weisselberg did not have full immunity for any other potential crimes.

“Typically the lawyers negotiate coverage or immunity for any other crimes he might have committed so they can’t come back,” Perry said. “Here they didn’t do that.”

Daniel Alonso also said he found it surprising, but said it made sense given the limited nature of the Weisselberg deal.

“Why should the prosecutor grant him this if he doesn’t cooperate fully?” This is not a traditional cooperation agreement. If he does less, he earns less.

There is now a full court press against Trump

Most presidents leave office and fade into the background of American political life. But Weisselberg’s plea deal is just one of many legal events involving the former president that have kept his name in the news.

The most dramatic of these was the Aug. 8 FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, which saw federal agents drive away from Trump’s property in Florida with boxes of classified documents.

An unsealed search warrant revealed that the FBI was investigating Trump for three possible federal crimes, including concealing records “with intent to prevent, obstructing or influencing” government activity, and possible violations of the Espionage Act.

An investigation is also underway into Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, as well as a civilian investigation into Trump led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Jared Gans contributed.

Leave a Comment