NEW YORK — Manhattan prosecutors accused former President Donald Trump of blessing his namesake company's alleged criminal tax fraud — despite never charging him for it — during their closing arguments Friday in a potentially $1.6 million jury trial.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says the Trump Organization saved on executive compensation and payroll taxes by offering its C suite unreported perks, such as luxury cars and apartment leases that were, in some cases, signed by Trump.
“Donald Trump is explicitly sanctioning tax fraud,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said Friday, calling the ex-president the "elephant not in the room."
Prosecutors must convince a jury that the company — and not just convicted former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — knowingly benefited from the alleged scheme. Bragg's predecessor, Cy Vance, charged Weisselberg and two Trump Org. entities, but the former president was never charged.
Steinglass' accusation Friday prompted an objection that the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, sustained.
Trump's specter nonetheless loomed large Friday as the prosecution hammered its point home to jurors with the aid of numerous Trump Org. financial documents and spreadsheets breaking out executive pay.
“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully ignorant is just not real,” Steinglass said.
Defense attorneys in the case have sought to pin the fraudulent activity on Weisselberg. He became a star witness for prosecutors after striking a plea deal that required him to testify and repay nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. In exchange, he reduced his possible 15-year sentence to five months.
"Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg," Defense Attorney Michael van der Veen said repeatedly on Thursday, the first day of closing arguments in the monthlong case.
With closing arguments finished, the jury will begin deliberations Monday, the results of which could end up costing the Trump Org. $1.6 million in fines.