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Evidence shows Trump ‘explicitly’ sanctioned alleged tax evasion scheme at two companies

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump “explicitly” sanctioned the alleged tax evasion scheme at the heart of the criminal trial of two Trump companies, a prosecutor argued Friday, citing trial evidence.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass made the claim during closing arguments in the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation trial. He said evidence showed “Mr. Trump explicitly sanctions tax evasion” and suggested Trump could be considered an unindicted co-conspirator.

The claim and other mentions of Trump during Steinglass’ closing arguments prompted defense attorneys to seek a mistrial, as the trial that began in late October appeared to end next week.

“It cannot be undone” in the minds of jurors, defense attorney Michael van der Veen said.

Manhattan Supreme Court Acting Judge Juan Merchan denied the request. However, he agreed to instruct the jury of four men and eight women on the Trump mentions when jurors return to court on Monday for final instructions on the law and the start of deliberations.

According to the judge’s instructions, the prosecution’s argument could have jurors wondering if someone higher in Trump’s affairs than former CFO Allen Weisselberg potentially took a non-malicious stance on alleged tax evasion. This could support prosecutors’ arguments that the alleged scheme satisfied executives and reduced payroll costs.

It could also help prosecutors meet the requirements of New York state law to find that a corporation has committed a crime.

Trump, who is mounting a third presidential campaign, is not charged in the case and did not appear in the courtroom during the trial. However, he criticized the prosecution last week on Truth Social. And the former president continues to face a parade of developments and legal challenges as he seeks to return to the Oval Office.

Defense attorney Susan Necheles called Steinglass’ claims “just plain grandstanding by prosecutors.”

She said Weisselberg, the disgraced former chief financial officer of Trump’s business empire and star witness for the prosecution, “testified under oath that he hid his efforts to evade corporate income tax. particular to President Trump and the Trump family and that he acted solely on his own personal behalf.” Gain.”

“He repeatedly testified that he never told President Trump about how he reported items on his personal tax returns and President Trump trusted him to do it right,” Necheles said. .

Allen Weisselberg stands between President-elect Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City on January 11, 2017.

Friday’s exchanges, including searing accusations between the prosecution and the defense, marked the end of the presentation of evidence and closing arguments at trial.

Trump companies are accused of handing out unofficial perks, including company-paid Manhattan rental apartments, rented luxury cars and untaxed and improperly awarded bonuses to senior executives who failed to report income on their tax returns.

Steinglass set off the legal fireworks as he began his closing argument on Thursday. “Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top leadership,” the prosecutor said.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 crimes in an August deal with prosecutors promising him a sentence of about 100 days in jail, well below the maximum 15-year prison term to which he was liable. In exchange, he agreed to testify honestly at the trial of the two Trump companies.

Steinglass pointed to evidence showing Trump recommended Weisselberg move to Manhattan from his Long Island home. Trump also called a special meeting of the Trump Corporation which authorized him to sign a lease on the apartment for the exclusive use of Weisselberg and his wife, the prosecutor said.

As the prosecutor spoke, a slide of the last page of the lease, complete with Trump’s signature, was displayed on a monitor in the courtroom.

Steinglass also showed jurors a similar apartment lease for Matthew Calamari, the longtime chief operating officer of Trump’s business community who was deemed an unindicted conspirator in the case. The lease also showed Trump’s agreement to this document.

The prosecutor reminded jurors that Trump approved luxury car leases for Weisselberg’s wife, even though he knew she was not a company employee.

Weisselberg did not list the value of the apartment, car leases for his wife and similar car leases for himself on his tax returns, trial evidence showed.

Steinglass also reminded jurors that evidence showed Trump approved company executive bonuses and signed every check for those benefits. Many of those payments to Weisselberg and others took the form of untaxed disbursements to independent contractors and were included in the company’s reports to the IRS, according to the evidence.

“This whole (defense) narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully unaware of is not true,” Steinglass said. He said the evidence refutes the defense’s closing arguments that Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, the comptroller of the Trump Organization, had “gone rogue” by orchestrating the alleged tax evasion scheme and concealing it from other seniors. company officials.

These arguments prompted the defense to seek a mistrial.

“He made (Trump) an unindicted co-conspirator and said he sanctioned tax evasion. It’s a bias he put on the jury and it can’t be undone,” he said. said van der Veen.

“He may be a co-conspirator,” Steinglass replied. “It has nothing to do with him being Donald Trump. It has to do with him being the president and CEO of these companies.”

After hearing arguments from both sides, the trial judge said declaring a mistrial was “not even a thought”.

When the jury returns on Monday, the trial judge will brief them on New York state law as it applies to the case.

These instructions should include an explanation of a New York criminal law that establishes when companies can be found guilty of committing crimes.

The law covers wrongdoing committed by “an executive officer acting in the course of his employment and on behalf of the company”.

It could be Weisselberg, and possibly McConney, prosecutors have already argued. However, Steinglass’s new indictment this week may have some jurors wondering if the “senior officer” could be someone even higher up in the Trump organization.

Jurors will also have to wrestle with the meaning of the phrase “for the benefit of.”

Ruling on that issue in a session without the jurors earlier in the week, the trial judge said the prosecution had to show “there was an intent to benefit society.”

However, “you can’t overstate what that intention was,” Merchan said..

►Documents: Appeals court quashes special lead review of documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

►Pleadings: Criminal tax evasion trial of 2 Trump companies nears completion as prosecutor suggests Trump knew about scheme

►Featured Witness: Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg fights back tears as he testifies in tax evasion trial

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump OK allegedly fraudulent, prosecutor says

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