OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Things are getting sticky for Donald Trump in the case being built by the Manhattan district attorney as it appears to be entering the end game.
It appears that Trump’s long time Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, could be headed for an indictment, and then it will remain to be seen if he flips on Trump, 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.
For months, prosecutors working for District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, have sought to pressure Mr. Weisselberg into cooperating with their investigation into Mr. Trump, and any deal could turn the trusted executive into a star witness against the former president. For now, Mr. Weisselberg appears to have rebuffed Mr. Vance’s office and continues to work at the Trump Organization.
Many believe that Weisselberg will remain loyal to Trump, but if evidence shows wrongdoing in the company it could still be problematic for Trump and the family.
Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner appeared on MSNBC and insinuated that Weisselberg could go against Trump even after a trial.
“But there’s also a long game to be played here,” he said. “I’ve had defendants who were not exactly like Weisselberg, but they were people that I desperately needed to bring on board to build my case against the bigger criminal fish, and they wouldn’t plead guilty. Allen Weisselberg may not plead guilty. So, here’s how we play the long game as prosecutors. We indict him. We try him. We convict him. And we sit down with him again after a jury has said, guilty, but before a judge has sentenced him. And we say, ‘What are you going to do now, chief? You still have an opportunity. We can still reduce your sentence somewhat, but guess what? You’re not going to get as good a deal as if you had come on board and cooperated upfront when you should have.’ So, there are still a lot of moving pieces to the Allen Weisselberg part of this equation.
This, naturally, was on MSNBC where the dream of Trump going to prison reigns supreme, no matter how insanely tough it would be to have that happen.
“We’ll have to study this new reporting by the New York Times, but to me, it looks like the first domino for Donald Trump is starting to fall,” former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said. “And this has been an inexorable path since the Supreme Court, 9-0, said Trump Tax returns have to be turned over, so these financial records that you’re seeking about Trump are now in the hands of prosecutors. We know that those New York prosecutors have convened a grand jury. They’re going to sit for six months, three days a week.”
“I think prosecutors here know one other thing, which is that Allen Weisselberg knows where all the keys to the kingdom are,” he said. “He knows everything. So, most normal companies have a compliance office that deals with all these questions. Not the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization’s compliance office was basically, like, a giant sharpie drawing of the presidential seal or something like that. So, it’s really all up to Weisselberg. And so, if they can flip Weisselberg, and I suspect they can because of that dynamic that Michael Cohen was just revealing, this kind of prisoner’s dilemma where if Weisselberg doesn’t cooperate, he’s got to worry that Trump may turn on him. Each of them has to worry about that and that becomes a race to get information and that’s why I think ultimately bad news for Trump.”
This is similar to the Republicans who believed that Hillary Clinton was going to go to prison. People want to believe, so they create scenarios where they believe. But it is extremely rare for top politicians to get in trouble themselves. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.