A Manhattan state court judge on Friday refused to drop criminal proceedings against the family business of Donald J. Trump and its longtime CFO Allen H. Weisselberg, clearing the way for a trial in the case scheduled for the fall.
Mr. Weisselberg and the company, the Trump Organization, were charged by Manhattan Attorneys last year with involvement in a 15-year program that compensated executives with hidden benefits so they could evade taxes. The charges stemmed from the bureau’s longstanding investigation into the company’s business practices.
In February, Mr. Weisselberg and the company filed motions to dismiss the charges, arguing that the case was politically motivated and that the defendants were only being charged because of their association with former President Donald J. Trump.
The decision marked the latest legal strike for Mr. Trump in a week of such.
On Monday, the FBI searched his Florida home in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation. And on Wednesday, in an interview with the New York State Attorney General, the former president invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which is conducting a civil investigation into some of the same practices being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney.
Judge Juan Merchan awarded District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg a significant victory. His prosecutors argued in May, in response to the motion to dismiss, that the charges were nothing out of the ordinary: Mr. Weisselberg broke the law by not paying his taxes and was being prosecuted for it, they said.
The Trump investigation
The Trump investigation
Numerous requests. Since Donald J. Trump left office, the former president has faced several different civil and criminal investigations across the country related to his business and political activities. Here’s a look at some notable cases:
“During the period charged with the indictment, Weisselberg evaded payment of taxes on income totaling $1.7 million,” they wrote in a memo filed with the court. “Such illegal conduct is regularly prosecuted and this office would have been remiss if it had not been done here.”
Justice Merchan dismissed a criminal tax fraud charge against the Trump Organization and its affiliated payroll company, allowing 14 of the 15 counts in the indictment against the company and all charges against Mr. Weisselberg. Prosecutors admitted in May that the charge should be dropped due to statute of limitations issues.
Jury selection for a trial was scheduled for October 24.
Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating Mr. Trump and his company since 2018, and Mr. Weisselberg came into the focus of prosecutors’ investigators in the spring of 2021, just a month after the US Supreme Court denied a recent attempt to put Mr. Trump in the office prevent him from receiving his tax returns. The judges’ decision ended a protracted legal battle that significantly delayed the investigation.
Under the supervision of then-district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., prosecutors had investigated whether Mr. Trump and his company had fraudulently inflated the value of his real estate in order to obtain loans and benefits.
But after obtaining Mr Trump’s tax records, prosecutors’ investigations into Mr Weisselberg focused on perks he received from the company, including several leased Mercedes-Benzes, a rent-free apartment and private schooling for his grandchildren. Mr. Weisselberg, prosecutors said when they charged him last July, failed to pay taxes on those perks.
Before Mr. Weisselberg was charged, prosecutors put significant pressure on him to cooperate with their investigation into Mr. Trump because of his deep understanding of the inner workings of the Trump Organization.
But Mr. Weisselberg failed to reach a settlement, leading to his indictment. The Trump Organization has since stripped him of his CFO title, although he continues to work at the company.
The indictment described a scheme coordinated by Trump Organization executives to understate their income by accepting benefits not listed on tax documents.
Even without Mr. Weisselberg’s cooperation, prosecutors continued to build a case against Mr. Trump, focusing on whether he had falsely inflated the value of his hotels, golf clubs and other assets.
In December, just weeks before leaving office, Mr. Vance directed prosecutors to begin presenting evidence before a grand jury, laying the groundwork for a possible indictment against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Vance had decided not to stand for re-election and his successor, Mr. Bragg, was sworn in on January 1st. First, the new district attorney allowed the prosecutors to proceed with their presentation to the grand jury. But after holding a series of meetings about the investigation, he became concerned about the challenge of proving Mr. Trump intended to break the law, a requirement for proving the charges under consideration.
Soon after, the two lead prosecutors who had led the investigation, Carey Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, resigned. In Mr. Pomerantz’s letter of resignation, seen by the New York Times, he said that Mr. Trump was “guilty of numerous felonies” and that failing to hold him accountable was “a serious failure of the judiciary.”
Mr Bragg has since defended the investigation, saying it is going ahead, although the direction it has taken is unclear.
Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.