In a virtual meeting with prosecutors last Thursday morning, Fischetti said he asked Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. for details of the charges under consideration.
“I specifically asked, ‘Are any of these accusations related to Donald Trump?’ And the answer was no, ”Fischetti told CBS News Tuesday.
The Trump Organization legal team anticipates that the company will be charged with tax offenses related to the alleged non-payment of taxes on employee benefits, including cars and apartment buildings provided to employees.
“They didn’t use the word ‘benefits’ or anything like that, but they alleged inappropriate benefits that were conferred on some of the high-ranking people in the Trump Organization,” Fischetti said.
During last Thursday’s meeting, prosecutors left lawyers for Mr. Trump and his company with a distinct impression that they were planning to lay charges in the next few days, possibly as early as this week. The decision to lay charges against the company itself – instead of company employees – could give prosecutors leverage to demand company-level changes or impose fines as part of a settlement negotiated.
According to sources familiar with conversations between the legal teams, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has given defense attorneys until last Monday to deter prosecutors from laying charges against the company, which oversees real and commercial property. of the former president.
Lawyers for the Trump organization plan to immediately dismiss the case in court if charges are laid by the grand jury, according to those familiar with the defense team’s legal strategy. The legal team believes the threat to the Trump organization posed by the lawsuits is disproportionate to the alleged misconduct, and believes prosecutors would be unable to prove that the management of the company – including the former president – had specific knowledge of inappropriate benefits granted to employees.
“The district attorney has had all of these years, all of this time to do this full investigation,” Fischetti told CBS News. He later added, “And what they filed was this indictment that they told us would be benefits for some anonymous employees. For cars, apartments and I don’t know what else. ”
Fischetti added that he thought the district attorney’s office had “no evidence” that the Trump Organization was involved in what he called “this minimal tax evasion by individuals, which has never been charged and has never been charged by the IRS ”.
“We intend to win,” said Fischetti.
Keir Dougall, CBS News legal associate and former federal prosecutor, said it would be difficult for lawyers for the Trump Organization to convince a court to dismiss potential charges on the grounds that such prosecutions are rare.
“Let’s say these charges have rarely, if ever, been laid – that’s not a defense,” Dougall told CBS News. “This claim in itself is not a defense. You might have a claim if you could prove it was a discriminatory selective prosecution. You might be able to argue that even though a crime has been committed, the case should be closed due to legal action, but this kind of claim is extremely difficult to win. “
Bennett Gershman, a former attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for six years and now a law professor at Pace University, said it was not typical to sue for allegedly neglecting to pay taxes on fringe benefits and fringe benefits, but said the survey was unique.
“We are not talking about your typical case. You’re talking about Donald Trump and the Trump Organization and trying to turn a key witness who so far seems reluctant to cooperate, ”Gershman told CBS News, referring to Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization who hasby prosecutors in recent months. “Prosecutors use all the pressure tactics they have, all the ammunition they have. This is still the beginning of the game, we are at the beginning. “
The district attorney’s office secured years of tax records from the former president in February following a lengthy court battle that reached the Supreme Court. Investigators from the New York attorney general’s office, which works with the attorney’s office, obtained depositions from several high-ranking officials of the Trump Organization.
The possible charges were first reported by The New York Times.
During last week’s meeting, according to Fischetti, prosecutors did not name Weisselberg by name, and no other person was singled out. The defense attorney also noted that there was no mention of allegations made by Mr. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, or adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed that she had had an affair with Mr. Trump before he took office, a claim the former president denied.
Mary Mulligan, an attorney for Weisselberg, declined to comment on CBS News.
According to Fischetti, the defense team initiated the meeting with Vance’s office. He called prosecutors “very polite,” although the discussion has at times become heated.
“They listened very carefully because they are very polite,” Fischetti said. “It got a little aggressive at times. Back and forth. But it’s still planned. ”
Although no charges have been filed, Mr Trump released a lengthy statement on Monday evening denouncing prosecutors as “witch hunters” who are “rude, mean and totally biased in the way they treat lawyers, representatives and some of the wonderful long-time employees and people of the Trump Organization. “
If the Trump Organization were to be indicted, Dougall said the company could face negative business consequences from an indictment and the environment for the Trump Organization could worsen if convicted.
“The risk is that the investigation will continue, people will turn around and prosecutors will solve the problem that prosecutors still have in organizational cases: they can link knowledge and direct involvement in the alleged crime against the organization, they can link that conduct directly to the organization, Trump or someone higher up, ”he said.
Dougall, however, said any grand jury review of the charges against Mr. Trump appears to be “a way to go, if that happens at all.”
The New York Attorney General’s Officein 2019 after Cohen testified before Congress and detailed the Trump Organization’s allegations of wrongdoing. The investigation initially focused on whether the company inflated asset valuations while seeking loans and insurance coverage and deflated the value of other assets to reduce tax liability. The office said in May it was investigating the Trump Organization as a “criminal.”
Vance has been leading a criminal investigation since 2018 and initially targeted secret cash payments made by Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign to Daniels. Vance’s office has since indicated in court records that the investigation has expanded to examine possible crimes as broad as tax evasion and evasion.