One sentence in the Manhattan District Attorney’s 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization suggests more people affiliated with the ex-president’s family company could face charges in the future, according to a former prosecutor.
Thursday’s indictment alleged the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg participated in a yearslong scheme to avoid paying taxes on $1.7 million worth of compensation. Both Weisselberg and attorneys for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Randy Zelin, a former New York state prosecutor, told Insider the charging documents included a sentence that offered a clue about other people who may have been involved in the alleged tax scheme.
“One of the largest individual beneficiaries of the defendants’ scheme was Allen Weisselberg,” the indictment reads.
Zelin, now a defense attorney at Wilk Auslander LLP, said prosecutors’ use of the word “individual” suggests other people – not just corporations – benefited from the Trump Organization’s alleged tax avoidance scheme.
“The government could have said he was the only one, right? The government didn’t have to use the word ‘individual,'” Zelin said. “The fact that the government inserted the word ‘individual’ means that there may be others who enjoy perks.”
“The fact that the government said ‘one of the largest’ – that by its very nature means other people were doing the same or doing similar,” he added.
The indictment describes an ongoing tax avoidance scheme that prosecutors allege began in 2005. Former President Donald Trump personally led the company until 2017, and then turned over leadership to Weisselberg and his two eldest sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who have disparaged the investigation as politically motivated.
Zelin noted that the Trump Organization closed ranks around Weisselberg after he was charged, suggesting the executive wasn’t a rogue actor in the alleged tax avoidance scheme.
“If he had done this on his own, he would have then have been cheating the Trump Organization,” Zelin said. “Not only wasn’t he terminated, not only was he not suspended pending further investigation, not only was he not suspended once he was indicted – but apparently he’s gone back to work since his indictment.”
False claims about President Joe Biden’s plans for addressing the climate crisis spread online this week, but the lack of truth over the claims didn’t stop Republican lawmakers from responding to or repeating them.
The Daily Mail published a story Thursday with a headline that began: “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH.” It included unsubstantiated claims that in order to meet Biden’s plan Americans would need to “cut 90% of red meat out of diet” and “only eat 4lbs a year.”
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared a screenshot from Fox News that echoed the claims, labeled as “Biden climate requirements,” along with the limit of “one burger per month.”
Fox News show host Larry Kudlow said: “Speaking of stupid, there’s a study coming out of the University of Michigan which says that to meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat, stop eating poultry and fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, and animal-based fats.”
In fact, the University of Michigan study cited by the Daily Mail and Fox was published in January 2020 and is not related to Biden or his climate plan. According to the authors, the study analyzes “hypothetical reduction in the consumption of animal-based foods in the US diet” and relies on “a number of simplifying assumptions.” It is not a policy proposal or suggestion.
When reached by CNN’s Daniel Dale, one of the authors said: “I, admittedly, have no idea what Biden’s plan has to say about our diets.”
Biden announced on Thursday that the US will aim to cut carbon emission 50% by 2030, but he has released few details on how his administration plans to meet that goal. During the announcement, Biden made no mention of Americans’ meat consumption.
The Daily Mail and Fox News did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The claims about Biden’s plan were amplified by conservatives on Twitter, including members of Congress.
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted the false claims, saying “Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030. They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn’t Joe stay out of my kitchen?”
Fellow freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted an apparent reference to the false claims, writing “The Hamburglar,” alongside a photo of Biden eating a burger. She added in quotes: “No burgers for thee, but just for me.”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the Fox News screenshot, saying: “I’m pretty sure I ate 4 pounds of red meat yesterday. That’s going to be a hard NO from me.”
Representatives for Boebert and Greene did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. Representatives for Abbott and Trump Jr. could not be reached.
All of the tweets mentioned above that spread the false or misleading claims were liked and shared thousands of times on Twitter.
Donald Trump Jr. shared a video on Twitter mocking President Joe Biden’s three stumbles on Friday.
The video showed former President Donald Trump taking a shot on the golf course – one of his favorite pastimes. The golf ball Trump hit flew into the greenery and came back in another frame, striking Biden in the head and knocking him down on the steps of Air Force One.
“It wasn’t the wind folks,” Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter.
“Does every member of the trump family have the intellect of an angry kindergartener?” one user wrote in response to his post. Another user said they reported the tweet and cited it as “disrespectful.”
Trump Jr.’s tweet did not violate Twitter policies, according to The Hill, which cited a spokesperson from the social media platform.
Weeks after winning the 2020 presidential election, Biden fractured his foot while playing with his dog Major.
Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s doctor, said in a statement that a scan “confirmed hairline (small) fractures of President-elect Biden’s lateral and intermediate cuneiform bones, which are in the mid-foot.”
At the time, O’Connor said that “it is anticipated that he will likely require a walking boot for several weeks.”
Biden, 78, is the country’s oldest president. During his campaign against Trump, Biden vehemently denied having any issues with his health. He and his campaign dismissed all health concerns, as well as released a medical report last year from Biden’s doctor. The report said Biden is “healthy” and “vigorous.”
Speaking at his first major event since his family left the White House last month, Donald Trump Jr. on Friday skewered President Joe Biden and recycled his grievances against anti-Trump Republicans, “big tech,” the mainstream media, and the 2020 election results.
He kicked off his speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by jokingly calling it “TPAC” and ripping Biden for ordering airstrikes on Syria mere weeks into his administration.
“Who would have thought that within 33 days, we’d be bombing the Middle East again?” Trump Jr. said.
He then turned his aim on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives who made headlines by voting to impeach Trump last month.
“I’m sure she has a lot of bipartisan support because if there’s one thing that she and Joe Biden definitely want to do, it’s bomb the Middle East,” Trump Jr. said.
“Liz Cheney and her politics are only slightly less popular than her father is at a quail hunt,” he added, referring to when then Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend in the face in 2006 while the two were out hunting together.
Trump Jr. went on to call the younger Cheney “Lincoln Project Liz” and accused her of representing “RINO” – Republican in name only – policies, “the kinds of policies that put the Republican Party in a position where they needed a Donald Trump.”
Cheney “is tied to an establishment that has done nothing but fail us time and time again,” Trump Jr. said. “You’ve heard the rhetoric from some of them over the last couple of weeks, and now you’ve seen that change very quickly. Because if there’s one thing the Republican Party has been really good at over the last few decades, it’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”
He also appeared to sarcastically refer to the more than 80 million US voters who cast ballots for Biden, putting the number in air quotes. The former president and his allies have repeatedly claimed that Biden did not actually receive that many votes because many of them were fraudulent (they weren’t.)
“I’m sure he’s making billions in China right now, don’t worry,” said Trump Jr., who has repeatedly touted the Trump Organization’s own foreign dealings. He then accused both Bidens of “corruption,” a long-running talking point in conservative political circles, adding, “We were all talking about it, guys. It wasn’t anything new, but that also shouldn’t surprise us.”
Fact check: Although the younger Biden is under criminal investigation, there is no evidence that the president had any knowledge or involvement in the activities under scrutiny.
Trump Jr. later attacked “big tech,” saying it “will silence you if you come out against it. They will crush you. They will call you racist and everything else.”
“That’s what we’re up against, folks,” he added. “But together, we can win these fights. We have to be vocal. We can’t be put in the corner. We must be out and engaged.”
“So, I’m looking forward to Sunday,” Trump Jr. said, referring to the former president’s upcoming speech. “I imagine it will not be what we call a low-energy speech, and I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.”
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News on Thursday night that the Republican Party is already looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election and that the top GOP contenders are all named Trump.
Meadows, who said he talked with former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, said the former president’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday in Orlando, Florida will offer a glimpse of “what the future may look like.” He added that Trump remains the leader of the divided party.
“On Sunday, we will see the start of planning for the next administration and I can tell you, the people that are at the top of that list, all of the have Trump as their last name,” Meadows told opinion host and Trump ally Sean Hannity.
Trump has reportedly said he plans to run for reelection in 2024 and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Don Jr., are both widely viewed as potential future candidates for office.
Since leaving office, Trump has continued to spread lies that he won the 2020 presidential election and that Democrats engaged in widespread voter fraud. Meadows said Trump will take about his “America First” agenda and attack President Joe Biden’s actions in office. It will be Trump’s first speech since he left office and was impeached for inciting the deadly January 6 Capitol riot.
“You’re going to see a speech on Sunday that talks about not only the beginning, but what the future may look like, and I’m excited about it,” said Meadows, formerly the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.
Also during Hannity’s Thursday night program, Trump Jr. mocked Republican politicians who “lose gracefully” and said his father showed “you don’t have to do that, you can actually push back.” And he insisted that his father remains the most powerful figure in the GOP.
“If you’re reading the room and you’re intelligent, you realize that Donald Trump is still the future of the Republican party,” he said.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance Jr., first sought Trump’s tax documents since it opened an investigation into his finances in 2017.
The precise scope of the investigation is unclear, but court filings suggest that Vance’s office is looking into whether the former president’s tax filings amounted to criminal tax fraud. If Trump were to be indicted for financial crimes, the tax returns would no doubt be a centerpiece for the charges.
Vance’s office is also reportedly looking into whether Donald Trump, Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, were involved in wrongdoing.
The investigation was first triggered after Michael Cohen, a former executive of the Trump Organization and personal lawyer to Trump, told Congress he used the company’s funds for hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006. Vance is looking into whether those payments broke laws as well.
Chief among the issues is whether – as Cohen testified – Trump kept two sets of books for his finances: One for favorable loan deals and another for low tax rates.
Jeff Robbins, a former attorney for the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and federal prosecutor overseeing money-laundering probes, said keeping two sets of books could lead to a number of serious financial crimes.
“Inconsistency is not a crime. The intent to defraud is a crime,” Robbins told Insider. “What a prosecutor is going to be looking at is: Did Trump seek to defraud the government of the United States with respect to the valuation of assets and the paying of taxes? Was there an intent to defraud banks?”
Trump has gone to great lengths to keep his tax returns secret despite saying he wants to make them public
In January 2017, Trump held a press conference with his three eldest children and pointed to a large pile of papers that he said showed he was withdrawing from the Trump Organization and giving all control over to Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. He has never permitted reporters to look at those purported documents.
A 2020 investigation from The New York Times found and analyzed nearly two decades’ worth of Trump’s returns. It cited major revelations, including:
Trump paid $0 in federal taxes for the majority of the years reviewed and $750 during his first two years as president. At the same time, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to foreign governments.
He received tens of millions of dollars from foreign sources.
$300 million in loans are due to be paid back over the next several years.
He vastly overstated his charitable giving.
He has been involved in a yearslong battle with the IRS over a $73 million refund, which he may owe back to the federal government.
The subpoenas will also enable Vance to obtain other documents related to Trump’s taxes, including communications between the Trump Organization and its accountants at the accounting firm Mazars USA, as well as questions, complaints, concerns, instructions, and arguments for how to value certain assets.
Robbins described these documents as “a potential treasure trove of admissions.”
“I’m sure prosecutors are looking at all sorts of contradictions in those documents,” Robbins, now the co-chair of the Congressional Investigations practice at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told Insider.
“If the taxpayer had taken a totally different position with respect to the asset in some other place, that would be very strong evidence of an intent to defraud,” he added.
Deutsche Bank, the Trump Organization’s chief lender, and Aon, its insurance broker, have already cooperated with Vance’s investigation, according to The New York Times.
Trump is also subject to at least two other financial investigations
The House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee is also seeking to obtain Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into whether he interfered with the IRS’s audit program.
It is not clear if the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which oversees federal prosecutions in Manhattan, is also looking into Trump’s finances. It successfully obtained a guilty plea from Michael Cohen in 2018 for campaign-finance violations related to the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments.
And just because Vance will get Trump’s tax returns doesn’t mean everyone else will.
Under New York state law, evidence obtained for a grand jury – as Vance is doing here – must be kept under seal unless the case goes to court. Both James and the House have been mired in their own court challenges over Trump’s returns. Rep. Richard Neal, the chairman of the House committee, has cited Vance’s recent Supreme Court win as a mark of confidence that he’ll succeed in his own lawsuit.
James, the state attorney general, has been involved with several tangles with Trump, his family, and his company over financial matters.
In 2019, she secured a settlement with Trump and his children where they paid a $2 million fine and were barred from serving on charity boards in the state. The Trump Foundation, which was dissolved as part of the settlement, had used funds to bolster Trump’s political fortunes and for the then-candidate’s personal image.
A separate probe from James’ office is looking into whether the Trump Organization has misrepresented its assets, including the value and use of its properties, for tax benefits. The office interviewed Eric Trump, the current chief executive of the Trump Organization, in October.
Trump, his family members, and the Trump Organization have all denied wrongdoing.
Vance is not expected to run for reelection as Manhattan’s District Attorney this year. He recently hired Mark Pomerantz, a former mob prosecutor, to oversee the Trump team and ensure its continuity under a new administration.
The investigations into Trump’s finances aren’t the only legal perils he’s facing. He, his company, political operation, and numerous other businesses and organizations he’s affiliated with are staring down a tsunami of investigations. He also faces numerous civil lawsuits related to his business practices and sexual-assault accusations.