New York prosecutors have given Donald Trump and his Trump Organization a Monday deadline to make final arguments as to why the company should avoid criminal charges, the latest major step in the wide-ranging criminal investigating of the former president’s financial dealings.
Officials from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office informed the Trump Organization earlier this week they are considering filing criminal charges against the company for allegedly mishandling “fringe benefits,” perks like car leases, apartments, and school tuition handed out to top executives, reported The New York Times. The Independent has reached out to the Trump Organization for comment.
If the DA’s office, which is jointly investigating the former president’s business empire with the New York attorney general’s office, goes through with the charges, that could be catastrophic for Mr Trump’s bottom line. It would likely triggering a financial spiral ending in bankruptcy, according to Daniel Goldman, a lawyer who worked on both Trump impeachments.
“It’s interesting and not surprising that they would approach the Trump Organization to tell them that they’re considering to charge them because that would be almost a death blow to the Trump Organization,” Mr Goldman told MSNBC.
“Every single bank would call their loans if the Trump Organization is indicted. No bank will every do business with an indicted company. There’s no way that the Trump Organization has enough capital to pay off all their loans. They would be effectively in default of all their loans and would also certainly have to go into bankruptcy.”
Earlier this year, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., convened a grand jury in Manhattan to consider charges in the investigation, though none have yet been filed.
The investigation, which the former president has repeatedly branded as a politically motivated “witch hunt,” has been ongoing for three years, and is exploring a range of questions. Principal among them are whether Mr Trump manipulated the value of his assets to get favourable loans and insurance terms, and whether he violated any laws handing out hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign to women claiming to have had affairs with him.
Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, has already been convicted in connection with the hush money payments, and is cooperating with the DA’s office. Prosecutors have also gone all the way to the Supreme Court and secured Mr Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
The company has denied wrongdoing.
“In my more than 50 years of practice, never before have I seen a district attorney’s office target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits,” Ronald P Fischetti, a personal lawyer for Mr Trump, told The Times on Friday. “It’s ridiculous and outrageous.”
“It began the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower, and it’s never stopped,” Mr Trump said of the investigations last month in a news release.
The focus on fringe benefits are likely an attempt to put pressure on Allen Weisselberg, a top Trump Organization executive responsible for the company’s finances, in an effort to secure his cooperation in the inquiry.
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