What We Know About The Charges Just Brought Against The Trump Organization

It was a day like no other for the private company that bears the name of former President Donald Trump. Just over five months after its former top executive left the White House, the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with fraud and tax crimes stretching out over a period covering 15 years, or from 2005 to the present. The charges were laid out in a document the public could only speculate on but didn't get to see until Thursday afternoon (via The New York Times).

In it, prosecutors alleged that the company used a scheme to avoid paying taxes at the federal, state, and local levels, with an eye towards compensating Weisselberg and other senior company officials "off the books." They say that "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 Corporation to the tax authorities."  

Prosecutors also say the scheme would eventually allow company officials to underreport their compensation packages, so that they could pay less taxes — which they did. As a result, Weisselberg's received as much as $1.7 million in untaxed earnings through perks including rent, utilities payments, and the settlement of private school fees at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School for his grandchildren (via CNN).

Donald Trump considers the criminal case a 'witch hunt'

Hours before the charges were revealed in a New York court, a Trump Organization attorney said that Weisselberg planned to plead not guilty, and that he would fight the charges (via ABC). The company itself also released a statement calling Weisselberg "a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who has worked at the Trump Organization for 48 years." The company claimed that Weisselberg was being used by Manhattan prosecutors "as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President." 

The Trump Organization further accused the District Attorney of "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." Trump himself released a Twitter-like statement after the court documents were unsealed, saying "The political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues. It is dividing our Country like never before!" (via NPR). 

This is the first case to come out of a three-year investigation

The indictments were the first tangible results of a three-year investigation both Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James; they had begun working independently of each other, but then opted to join forces in early June (via AP). James has released a statement on social media, calling the legal action "an important marker in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. 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. This investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead" (via Twitter).

Before you can ask "is this it?" know that this isn't the only case that the Manhattan District Atttorney and the New York Attorney General's offices are working on. They are still investigating the Trump Organization's business practices to find out whether it messed with the value of different properties to get loans and tax benefits — that broader investigation is still ongoing (via The New York Times).