OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The case against Donald Trump’s organization is getting closer to potential criminal charges as the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has informed Trump’s attorneys that charges may be coming.
The case involves fringe benefits that were given to a top executive at The Trump Organization, The New York Times reported.
If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges against the Trump Organization and the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as soon as next week, the people said.
The criminal charges would be the first to emerge from Mr. Vance’s long-running investigation into Mr. Trump and his business dealings, and raise the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded and has run for decades.
While the prosecutors had been building a case for months against Mr. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with the inquiry, it was not previously known that the company also might face charges.
Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.
Prosecutors are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.
Trump’s attorneys had a meeting with prosecutors on Thursday in an attempt to convince them to not pursue criminal charges against the company, which is common in these types of cases, but it is not known what the prosecutors are planning to do.
In May, Trump responded to the investigation in a near 900 word statement, calling it an investigation in search of a crime.
“There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime. But, make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here,” he said.
“Working in conjunction with Washington, these Democrats want to silence and cancel millions of voters because they don’t want ‘Trump’ to run again,” he said. “As people are being killed on the sidewalks of New York at an unprecedented rate, as drugs and crime of all kinds are flowing through New York City at record levels, with absolutely nothing being done about it, all they care about is taking down Trump.”
“If these prosecutors focused on real issues, crime would be obliterated, and New York would be great and free again!” he said.
This news comes after it was reported that Trump’s long time Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, could be headed for an indictment this Summer, The New York Times reported.
In recent weeks, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about Mr. Weisselberg, who is facing intense scrutiny from prosecutors as they seek his cooperation with a broader investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization, the people with knowledge of the matter said. The prosecutors have obtained Mr. Weisselberg’s personal tax returns, the people said, providing the fullest picture yet of his finances.
Even as the investigation has heated up, it remains unclear whether the prosecutors will seek an indictment of Mr. Weisselberg, which would mark the first criminal charges stemming from the long-running financial fraud investigation into Mr. Trump and his family company.
The investigation into Mr. Weisselberg focuses partly on whether he failed to pay taxes on valuable benefits that Mr. Trump provided him and his family over the years, including apartments and leased cars as well as tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of his grandchildren. In general, those types of benefits are taxable, although there are some exceptions, and the rules can be murky.