A three year investigation finally results in charges against Trump’s Chief Financial Officer, even as the mainstream media admits these same charges are almost never filed in similar cases. Pay no attention to that though, we’re expected to believe this might be a precursor for the big move against Trump himself. Where have I heard that before?
Last Thursday, New York District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, finally made his long-anticipated move against Donald Trump. Well, sort of. The mainstream media has, of course, buried the lead: Trump was not charged, and if reports are accurate, he will not be. Instead, prosecutors in New York filed 15 felony counts against the Trump Organization, Trump Payroll Corporation, and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg for tax and fraud charges stretching back to 2005. According to CNN, this represents an “extraordinary legal development against the former President’s namesake company. Prosecutors in court said the counts include a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, criminal tax fraud, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records.”
At issue is $1.76 million dollars paid to Mr. Weisselberg since 2005, but not reported as taxable income. The New York District Attorney’s office alleges Mr. Weisselberg received income in the form of perks paid by the Trump Organization. This included payment of rent on an expensive New York apartment, private school for his children, and perhaps other things. The indictment reads “Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, the defendants and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities. The purpose of the scheme was to compensate Weisselberg and other Trump Organization executives in a manner that was ‘off the books’: the beneficiaries of the scheme received substantial portions of their income through indirect and disguised means, with compensation that was unreported or misreported by the Trump Corporation or Trump Payroll Corp.”
As a result, Weisselberg “thereby evaded approximately $556,385 in federal taxes, approximately $106,568 in state taxes, and approximately $238,159 in New York City taxes, and he falsely claimed and received approximately $94,902 in federal tax refunds and approximately $38,222 in state tax refunds, to which he was not entitled.” That’s it, less than a million dollars in taxes over 15 years, and yet here is New York Attorney General Letitia James characterizing this as some kind of huge prosecutorial victory. “Today is an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg,” she said. “In the indictment, we allege, among other things, financial wrongdoing whereby the Trump Organization engaged in a scheme with Mr. Weisselberg to avoid paying taxes on certain compensation.” She added, “This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.”
Of course, she failed to mention that this investigation has been ongoing for almost three years now and this is all they have come up with on a company valued at several billion dollars. Those of us who do not have short memories remember that the investigation began, and I am quoting CNN here so you know it’s not spun in favor of Trump, “with questions about accounting practices tied to hush-money payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and eventually led to a Supreme Court fight over a subpoena for Trump’s tax documents.”
Their complete failure to turn up anything meaningful has not stopped a completely out of control District Attorney’s office from spinning a pretty straight forward civil tax issue into the crime of the century. “In light of the many statements that have already been made about this case, I’d like to clarify for the court briefly what this case is, and is not, about,” Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Carey Dunne said Thursday. “The chief financial officer himself avoided taxes on $1.7 million of his income, which hardly amounts to an incidental ‘fringe benefit’. And the former CEO signed, himself, many of the illegal compensation checks. To put it bluntly, this was a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme.”
A sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme? Has anyone bothered to check the actual numbers? The Trump Organization generates between $446 million and $655 million in revenue per year, employing over 22,000 people. They’ve found one single person who received compensation averaging $117,333 per year that should have been reported as income, meaning between .018% and .026% of their annual revenue was misallocated, affecting .00045% of their workforce. These percentages are so small they aren’t even rounding errors, their rounding errors on rounding errors on rounding errors. In what rational universe would anyone describe a “scheme” affecting this insignificant a portion of an organization as “sweeping” and “audacious”? Oxford Languages defines “sweeping” as “wide in range or effect,” but this is miniscule in both. They define “audacious” as “a willingness to take bold risks,” this is neither.
In fact, even the mainstream media admits that under normal circumstances prosecutors wouldn’t even bring charges. Here’s CNN again, “It is rare, according to lawyers who specialize in tax evasion cases, for prosecutors to bring charges solely related to fringe benefits provided by a company, and in recent weeks, lawyers for the Trump Organization met with prosecutors in Vance’s office, hoping to persuade them not to bring the case.” Of course, this hasn’t stopped their in-house propagandist, Stephen Collinson, from running wild with the story, claiming that “No recent former President has faced the kind of threat to his legacy, reputation and potentially even his fortune now being encountered by Trump.” They’re even quoting Trump’s disgraced and completely dishonest former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to support the idea that somehow, someway, this will end with prosecution of Trump himself.
“The second question is whether the unsealed indictment represents the full extent of the two-year investigations against Trump and his company or whether there is more to come for the ex-President. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who himself went to jail after pleading guilty to campaign finance and tax charges, said…“There is nothing that happened at the Trump Organization that did not go to Donald,” Cohen told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. ‘Whether it was the purchasing of paperclips or the payment of Allen Weisselberg’s grandchildren’s tuition. Every single thing went on Donald’s desk for signature.’”
Yes, I am sure Trump is terrified. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Mr. Weisselberg is pleading not guilty, meaning at least at this point it seems the idea that he is about to flip on Trump for some imagined crime is a pure fantasy, literally a fever dream that has afflicted progressives for the three years of this investigation and six years since Trump came on the scene. In truth, barely a month has gone by without some sort of breathless reporting that major charges were imminent.
One month ago, Politico reported “Manhattan DA could pursue racketeering charge in Trump Org probe, experts say.” Around the same time, the Never Trump Bulwark was pontificating on “Why the Manhattan District Attorney Should Have Trump Worried.” Back in March, the investigation was “heating up” according to MarketWatch and according to the New York Times, “Manhattan D.A. Intensifies Investigation of Trump.” In February, the Times was pondering whether or not Mr. Vance’s replacement would also go after Trump, “One Question for Manhattan D.A. Candidates: Will You Prosecute Trump?” Last September, the Associated Press was reporting “DA seeking Trump’s taxes cites ‘mountain’ of allegations.” Last August, CNBC was claiming, “Trump and company could be under investigation for bank and insurance fraud, Manhattan DA Vance reveals.”
The list could go on if I wanted it to, but I’m sure you get the point. Now, they’ve finally filed charges affecting between .018% and .026% of the Trump Organization’s revenue. What’s the old saying about making a “mountain” out of a molehill? Perhaps needless to say, the Trump team believes the prosecution is politically motivated. They released a statement last Thursday claiming that Weisselberg is being used by prosecutors “as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President.” “The District Attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics,” the statement continued to say.
What evidence do we have of this? Well, for starters, we have the words of New York’s own Attorney General, Letitia James. Before she even assumed office, she was promising to use “every area of the law” to investigate Trump and just about everyone he knows, despite no evidence or indication that any crime had been committed. “We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” she said, “citing specifically Trump’s real-estate holdings in New York, the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian official in 2016, government subsidies Trump received, and the Trump Foundation” according to NBC News. “We want to investigate anyone in his orbit who has, in fact, violated the law,” she added for good measure, again this was without any knowledge that any laws have been violated and before she even took office.
Apparently, Ms. James never heard of Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice, and Nuremberg prosecutor, Robert Jackson, who said, “With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm-in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.”
Something along those lines couldn’t possibly be going on here, could it?
We can also consider how other public figures with tax problems have been treated. Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary in 2009, Tim Geithner, failed to pay taxes on his full income while working for the International Monetary Fund between 2001 and 2004, owing over $42,000 in Federal taxes including interest. Though the man was an economist and picked to head the Internal Revenue Service, in charge of collecting taxes from everyone else, he claimed, of course, that it was just an honest mistake. “These were careless mistakes,” Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing. “They were avoidable mistakes, but they were unintentional. I should have been more careful. I take full responsibility.” Yes, it was just a mistake, despite that he’d been audited in 2006 and already forced to pay for the same problem in 2003 and 2004, meaning he damn well knew he had to pay for 2001 and 2002 as well, and yet chose not to. This obviously lie and equally obvious cheat didn’t prevent him from being confirmed by the Senate, nor did he face any charges.
We might also consider how it is that we live in a country where criminal charges are filed for evading taxes on $1.76 million in income, but progressive billionaires from Jeff Bezos to Warren Buffet pay next to no taxes, apparently legally, though no actual audit or investigation was conducted by any governmental authority. Where were all the polemics in the media and calls to audit these titans of industry for potentially criminal tax evasion after ProPublica released their report earlier this year? There were, of course, none.
Beyond that, I understand that liberals are giddy with the news that the walls are closing in on Trump one last time. First, they should remember that we’ve heard this story before, over and over again, and yet after millions upon millions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of man hours, the investigators always fail to come up with anything meaningful. Now they have not even pennies on the dollar in taxes. Second, I would encourage them to check their own taxes and make sure they never, ever took a deduction they shouldn’t, fudged the numbers just a little bit, or — gasp — fibbed simply to pay a little less. What’s that about stones and glass houses?