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  • Lolita Chowdhury

Trump's Tax Fraud Trial Starting - What it Could Mean for the Trump Business Going Forward



The Trump Organization, a collection of nearly 500 business entities owned by former president Donald Trump, is currently under investigation for possible criminal tax fraud (Yaw Afari/Unsplash).


Former U.S. president and businessman Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, is currently on trial for possible criminal tax fraud. Prosecutors allege that the company has participated in a 15-year scheme to avoid New York state, New York City, and federal taxes.


Events Leading up to the Trump trial


Prosecutors brought the suit against the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, in June 2021, accusing Weisselberg of avoiding paying $1.7 million in taxes. He pleaded guilty in August, agreeing to pay approximately $2 million in taxes, interest, and penalties and to serve five months in jail with five years of probation. Weisselberg also agreed to “testify truthfully at the upcoming trial of the Trump Organization” or face further imprisonment.


In his plea statement, Weisselberg mentioned several other top Trump Organization executives, including Jeffrey McConney, the company’s senior vice president and controller, a sign of their possible criminal culpability. This added obstacle for the Trump Organization came just days after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida for classified material. The FBI later confirmed that the search was connected to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which ordered Trump to return 15 boxes of “top-secret” documents earlier this year.


The Start of the Trump Trial


In August, Judge Juan Merchan, overseeing the trial, ruled that the evidence presented to the grand jury “was legally sufficient to support the charges in the indictment” and that those proceedings were properly conducted and their “integrity unimpaired,” effectively beginning the trial. Jury selection began promptly and concluded on October 28, opening the door for witnesses to be called. However, Trump is not expected to willingly attend or testify. In the days following the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right, saying he “declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.” Many expect him to do the same in this case. However, Judge Merchan warned that Trump and other members of his family could potentially be ordered to appear in court. Still, the trial is expected to receive the bulk of its testimonies from Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.


Currently, experts are unsure how the case will end and how much the sentence will affect Trump’s political and social standing. While neither Trump nor his children working at the Trump Organization have been charged, experts argue that because he is virtually synonymous with the company, he has everything to do with this case.


If convicted of tax fraud, the company could be fined more than $1 million, face difficulties securing future loans or deals, and lose ties with government partners. It could also damage Trump’s relationship with the U.S. Secret Service, which sometimes pays the Trump Organization for services and lodgings. Furthermore, this case could hurt Trump’s reelection bid (which he announced on November 15). However, nothing can be said for certain until the verdict is released and the sentence handed down.


 


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