Donald Trump knew exactly what a top finance executive was up to when he committed financial crimes — with records showing the ex-president “explicitly” sanctioned tax fraud, prosecutors said on Friday.
The 76-year-old Trump hasn’t been charged but remained the focus of closing statements by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on the final day of a criminal tax-fraud case against the Trump Organization.
“Donald Trump is explicitly sanctioning tax fraud. That’s what this document shows,” assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told jurors in Manhattan Criminal Court. “This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not real.”
The statements sought to knock down the defense’s position that former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg acted “solely for his own benefit” when he dodged taxes and he received off-the-books financial perks from the company. The ex-CFO pleaded guilty to grand larceny and other charges, then testified against the company during the trial.
Steinglass argued that an alleged scheme to dodge paying taxes on perks for Weisselberg and other top officials helped keep salaries down, reduced payroll taxes – and shifted tax deductions to Trump entities such as his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
“The entire defense strategy here is to promote the idea that Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” Steinglass said. “Has a nice ring to it, but it’s just not grounded in reality.”
Steinglass blasted the idea that “all this was going on right under Donald Trump’s nose and he was ignorant about everything.” He added that Trump decided executive pay, raises and Christmas bonuses.
“No one, no person, and no corporation is above the law… putting aside the elephant that’s not in the room, this case is not about politics,” he said. “It’s just two corporations helping its executives cheat on their taxes.”
The charges against the Trump Org and its subsidiary, the Trump Payroll Corporation, focused on under-the-table perks for Weisselberg that included a luxury apartment, cars and school tuition for his grandkids.
“Let’s say you want to ask for a raise to buy a $25,000 car — $25,000 won’t cut it because of tax,” Steinglass told jurors. “Trump Org would have had to give Wisselberg a raise that was double that. A $25,000 car would cost them $50,000 in raises.”
The company did benefit from the misconduct, he charged, because executives showered with untaxed perks had their on-the-books salaries reduced by amounts equal to the benefits.
“The executives net more and the company pays less,” Steinglass said. “A win-win for everyone except the tax man. In the end, that’s all this is.”
Defense attorneys had pointed the finger solely at Weisselberg on Thursday, with lawyer Susan Necheles saying, “We are here today because of one reason and one reason only: the greed of Allen Weisselberg.”
The former CFO will do five months in prison as part of his plea.
Jury deliberations in the case are set to begin Monday.