Trump Organization Gets $1.6M Slap On Wrist For Decades Of Tax Fraud, Vows To Appeal 'Witch Hunt'

Trump Organization Gets $1.6M Slap On Wrist For Decades Of Tax Fraud, Vows To Appeal 'Witch Hunt'
Jan 2023

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
This morning, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan imposed the maximum fine of $1.6 million on the Trump Organization for its longstanding scheme to pay executives with pre-tax dollars, stiffing Uncle Sam and the New York Department of Finance and Taxation out of millions of dollars in revenue. This follows longtime Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg being sentenced this week to serve five months at Rikers for his role in the fraud.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was quick to congratulate himself on the victories, while tut-tutting in the general direction of Albany for his inability to do more.
"While corporations can't serve jail time, this consequential conviction and sentencing serves as a reminder to corporations and executives that you cannot defraud tax authorities and get away with it," he said. "It is also an important reminder that our state law must change so that we can impose more significant penalties and sanctions on corporations that commit crimes in New York."
Let's all join now in a round of slow, sarcastic clapping. It was literally the least he could do, and he did it.
Bragg accepted a plea deal for Weisselberg that allowed him to take the fall while refusing to testify against Trump. The DA also famously killed the plan to criminally indict Donald Trump, causing the noisy resignation of the two outside attorneys hired by his predecessor Cyrus Vance, Jr. to prepare the case and present it to the grand jury.
"I fear that your decision means that Mr. Trump will not be held fully accountable for his crimes. I have worked too hard as a lawyer, and for too long, now to become a passive participant in what I believe to be a grave failure of justice," Mark Pomerantz wrote a year ago. "I therefore resign from my position as a Special Assistant District Attorney, effective immediately."
He's currently patting himself on the back and spewing platitudes about this "significant chapter of our ongoing investigation into the former President and his businesses." But the grand jury has been disbanded, and clearly the reins have been passed to Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a $250 million civil fraud enforcement action against the Trump Organization and members of the family last year.
Meanwhile, the New York Times casts the verdict as a "stinging rebuke," while admitting that the fine amounts to "a pittance to the company, and the former president, who collected hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year while in office." The AP calls it a "black mark on the Republican's reputation as a savvy businessman as he mounts a campaign to regain the White House," while ABC warns that reputable banks may no longer want to do business with the company. As if this would be the deciding factor for a bank willing to work with a twice impeached former president who incited an attack on the seat of government.
In the immortal words of Kellyanne Conway, "Let me know when the jail sentence starts." And not for some underling.
As she did during the trial, Trump defense lawyer Susan Necheles blamed Weisselberg for the entire scheme, insisting that "every witness repeatedly testified that President Trump and the Trump family knew nothing about Allen Weisselberg's actions."
Simultaneously, the Trump Organization, which has continued to pay Weisselberg his regular salary during the trial, put out a statement contradicting their position that the former CFO is a shameless fraudster: "Allen Weisselberg is a victim. He was threatened, intimidated and terrorized. He was given a choice of pleading guilty and serving 90 days in prison or serving the rest of his life in jail -- all of this over a corporate car and standard employee benefits."
"President Trump and the Trump Organization are also both victims," it went on, adding that "[t]hese politically motivated prosecutors will stop at nothing to get President Trump and continue the never ending witch-hunt which began the day he announced his presidency."
The company has vowed to appeal, with Necheles grumbling that "[t]he D.A., as usual, or again, does not understand the tax law."
Lotsa luck.
Trump Organization fined $1.6 million for long-running tax fraud scheme [NBC]
Trump's Company Gets Maximum Punishment for Evading Taxes [NYT]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.