- The Manhattan DA’s office may soon announce charges in its investigation into the Trump Organization.
- Trump’s personal lawyer told Politico prosecutors assured him Trump would not be personally charged.
- But charges against executives in a first indictment will likely strengthen a case against Trump, legal experts say.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reportedly may file charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer this week, but one person they aren’t likely to come after right now is Donald Trump.
In a Monday interview with Politico, Trump lawyer Ronald Fischetti said Manhattan prosecutors assured him that Trump would not be personally charged.
But that doesn’t mean the former president is definitively off the hook.
Fischetti himself acknowledged to Politico that the investigation remains ongoing, and charges against Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg or any other particular executive in a first indictment will likely strengthen prosecutors’ case, according to legal experts.
“The district attorney’s office is looking to take all the oxygen out of the room,” Randy Zelin, a defense attorney at Wilk Auslander LLP and former New York state prosecutor, told Insider. “And make those people who really don’t want to go to jail little choice but to turn around and cooperate.”
The district attorney’s office has not accused anyone of wrongdoing at this point, but it has empaneled a special grand jury to weigh indictments in the case. Prosecutors may bring charges against Trump personally, the Trump Organization as a company, specific executives, or it may not bring charges at all.
A representative for the Manhattan DA declined to comment. Through a representative, Fischetti declined Insider’s request for comment.
In a Friday interview with NBC News, Fischetti said prosecutors want to use other witnesses to testify against Trump.
“They could not get Allen Weisselberg to cooperate and tell them what they wanted to hear, and that’s why they are going forward with these charges,” Fischetti told NBC News. “They could not get him to cooperate because he would not say that Donald Trump had knowledge or any information that he may have been not deducting properly the use of cars or an apartment.”
Charges against Trump’s executives, or his company, would help prosecutors make that case.
Trump’s lawyer didn’t rule out charges against him down the line
For two years, the Manhattan DA’s office has been investigating whether the Trump Organization broke state laws by misrepresenting the value of its properties in order to pay little in taxes while securing favorable loan and insurance rates.
The investigation was sparked by testimony from Michael Cohen, the former Trump Organization executive who said the company illegally facilitated hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors also reportedly have been examining whether the company or its executives broke laws by taking benefits like rent-free apartments, cars, and tuition payments from the company without paying the appropriate taxes.
Fischetti told Politico that prosecutors informed him the Trump Organization would not be charged for crimes related to property value manipulation or hush-money payments – but they did not mention the tax-free benefits.
He also did not mention the potential charges against Weisselberg. If prosecutors bring charges against Trump’s money man, they may have a better chance of flipping him.
They have already gone to great lengths subpoenaing Weisselberg’s personal finances and even his grandchildren’s school, where his ex-daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, said he arranged for tuition payments. But the Trump loyalist still appears to resist agreeing to be a witness.
“Once they’re no longer bluffing and you’ve been charged, you’ll see how quickly people who thought they could play games, and thought they could play poker with the district attorney’s office, are now beating down the district attorney’s office door to cooperate,” Zelin told Insider.
If he ultimately agreed to cooperate, Weisselberg would be a star witness in the case.
Thanks to two wins at the Supreme Court, prosecutors already have reams of tax and other financial documents from the Trump Organization. But Weisselberg would be invaluable in presenting those documents to jurors and illustrating whether the company manipulated financial documents – and whether Trump played a role.
Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who worked with Weisselberg for nearly 20 years, previously told Insider that despite his steadfast loyalty to Trump, Weisselberg would probably agree to cooperate if he faced criminal charges.
“It’s a very different thing than just doing a favor for Trump or engendering his admiration,” Res said. “Now you’re asking people to take their loyalty to Trump, and keep it, even though they may have to go to jail for it.”