Trump's Business May Go On Trial On Tax Charges Just Before The 2022 Elections
Investigations into former President Donald Trump's family business by the Manhattan district attorney and the New York state attorney general are still underway, and more indictments may be coming.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A judge has set an approximate trial date for a criminal fraud case against an executive who worked for former President Trump. Allen Weisselberg is to go on trial in the late summer of 2022, August or September, about a year from now. Journalist Andrea Bernstein is covering the case for NPR News and was in the courtroom this morning. Good morning.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey Steve. Great to talk to you.
INSKEEP: When I see that news, I immediately think of the old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. Why would a criminal trial be held for about a year?
BERNSTEIN: Well, this is a case against Trump's company and his chief financial officer. And the lawyers for the chief financial officer argued in court that they need time to go through these some 6 million documents that the DA has sent to them. The judge did give them a lenient schedule, but he said that's it; don't schedule any vacations or other trials for August and September of 2022.
INSKEEP: OK, so it was on the defense's motion that this is being delayed so far. Let's talk about what's in those 6 million documents or at least allegedly in there. What is it that Weisselberg supposedly did?
BERNSTEIN: So what the prosecutors are saying is that he and the Trump corporation participated in a 15-year scheme to defraud the government of its proper taxes by, in effect, keeping two sets of books - one which was what they reported to the IRS and one which was allegedly Weisselberg's actual salary, much more money, with untaxed benefits like an apartment lease, a car lease and a spot for his Mercedes Benz included.
INSKEEP: Wow. OK, so they are saying there is documentation of this. Like, the Trump's - the Trump Organization's own documents prove the case, according to prosecutors here.
BERNSTEIN: Well, that's what they say. And today after court, Weisselberg's lawyer issued a statement saying, we have studied the indictment, and it is full of unsupported and flawed factual and legal assertions regarding Allen Weisselberg; we look forward to challenging those assertions in court. The president is not charged - former President Trump. He has denied any wrongdoing, and his companies have pleaded not guilty.
INSKEEP: OK, so these 6 million documents - what is the schedule going ahead? We mentioned not a trial for almost a year, but I assume something happens between now and then.
BERNSTEIN: Right. So the judge gave the defense 120 days until the interesting date of January 20, 2022 - of course, a year after the inauguration of President Biden - to submit their motions. Prosecutors have another 120 days. The judge said he would rule in July and see them all back in court in August or September. Now, one other extremely interesting thing happened in court today, which is that Weisselberg's lawyers said that they have strong reason to believe there could be other indictments coming. And we know other Trump executives have been testifying to a grand jury. We know the district attorney and the attorney general have been aggressively investigating. So while this trial may not happen until next summer, there is likely more to come in the interim time.
INSKEEP: I want to be very clear about what you're telling me. Prosecutors did not say they are on their way to indicting more people, which is not a thing they would likely ever say, but the defense, with whatever communications it has, believes that other indictments are coming. Is that correct?
BERNSTEIN: Exactly. Exactly. They said that in open court - we have strong reason to believe there could be other indictments coming. What they are, who they're against, we don't know yet.
INSKEEP: Much more work for you, Andrea.
BERNSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: Andrea Bernstein covering the Trump criminal case for NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "HOURGLASS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.