Former President Donald Trump used a Saturday rally in Sarasota, Florida to scold New York prosecutors who he says are trying to “take him out” with charges that the Trump Organization didn’t pay taxes on $1.7 million in fringe benefits to its CFO Allen Weisselberg.
“Never before has New York City and the prosecutors or perhaps any prosecutors criminally charged a company or a person for fringe benefits,” the former president said, according to The Washington Times. “Murder is OK. Human trafficking, no problem. But fringe benefits — you can’t do that.”
Weisselberg allegedly received apartments, cars, and school tuition for his grandchildren as benefits while CFO over 15 years, but didn’t pay taxes on them as part of his compensation.
If any of the charges stick, Weisselberg could be fined twice the amount of the taxes that prosecutors determine were unpaid, the Associated Press notes. He has also been threatened with jail time, the Times reports, in what seems like an effort to get him to flip on Trump and implicate him in wrongdoing directly.
Experts: Charges will be hard to prove
Weisselberg has so far refused to cooperate, and experts think the charges will be difficult to prove.
Business Insider said, however, that the case could have financial impacts on President Trump’s lifestyle — and his family’s — if banks and companies use the charges as a pretext to pull out of deals with Trump’s company.
The Trump Organization has $600 million in debt coming due over the next four years, Business Insider reported, and could find it difficult to get banks to lend more money now that criminal charges have been filed.
Deutsche Bank holds the bulk of the debt and has said it would not pull out of a relationship with Trump’s company because of the charges, however, as the outlet notes.
Investigation far afield
Writing Friday, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the two-plus-year investigation into Trump started out looking into a $130,000 hush money payment to former adult film star Stormy Daniels made by Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump claimed not to know about the payment, but prosecutors sought to link him directly, which would have been a campaign finance violation.
Apparently, however, they couldn’t get Trump on the hush money payment, and decided to broaden the investigation. Their determination to get Trump on something — anything — led them to request access to Trump’s tax returns and financial documents from the Trump Organization, which they finally got earlier this year.
The former president has a theory for why they want to get him so badly. “They throw it my way solely because I have been fighting for you against the corrupt establishment,” he told a cheering crowd at the Saturday rally, according to The Washington Times.