Trump's lawyer says he's not worried prosecutors named Trump personally in the tax-fraud indictment against his namesake company

·6 min read
donald trump rally
Former President Donald Trump at an August 21 rally in Cullman, Alabama. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • A tax-fraud indictment against the Trump Organization and its CFO personally named Donald Trump.

  • Still, his lawyer Ronald Fischetti told Insider he didn't think the Manhattan DA would charge Trump.

  • He said Trump's tax savings in the alleged fraud scheme would amount to "pennies."

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

An attorney representing Donald Trump said he wasn't worried that the former president was personally named in the indictment against his namesake company, telling Insider he's confident Trump wouldn't be charged in the Manhattan district attorney's long-running investigation.

Prosecutors named Trump in charging documents unsealed July 1. They said he cut checks for family members of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, whom they also accused of tax crimes.

"Trump Corporation personnel, including Weisselberg, arranged for tuition expenses for Weisselberg's family members to be paid by personal checks drawn on the account of and signed by Donald J. Trump, and later drawn on the account of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust," prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

Trump's lawyer Ronald Fischetti told Insider the mention had no bearing on the former president's personal legal exposure in the district attorney's investigation. He said Trump paid the tuition bills personally, rather than through corporate accounts, and took "no deductions" on them.

"All that money paid for [Weisselberg's] grandson's tuition - to the same school that Donald Trump's son Barron goes to - was paid by Donald Trump personally, never from the company," Fischetti said. "No checks ever went from the company to pay for that tuition."

Fischetti said Trump made the tuition payments because Weisselberg's son, Barry, was undergoing an acrimonious split from his wife, Jennifer Weisselberg. Trump wanted to make sure the grandchildren of a "trusted employee" could remain at their school, Fischetti said.

"Donald Trump, out of his generosity, paid for it personally," Fischetti said. "No deductions, no nothing."

The Trump Organization is expected to face trial next year

Weisselberg and attorneys for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty to a 15-count indictment, where prosecutors described a wide-ranging tax scheme in which they accused Weisselberg of dodging taxes on $1.7 million of his income, much of which they said came in the form of perks like tuition payments, apartments, and cars.

Prosecutors said more than $359,000 of that untaxed compensation came in the form of tuition payments from 2012 to 2017. They alleged the tuition payments were categorized as compensation in the Trump Organization's internal records but not on Weisselberg's personal tax forms.

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The Trump Organization's CFO, Allen Weisselberg, in State Supreme Court in New York City on Monday. Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times via AP

Fischetti said that Trump paying the tuition out of his own pocket, rather than corporate coffers, indicated Trump had already paid all the appropriate taxes on his end.

"It's not taxable for that person," Fischetti said. "And it's not a deduction for the person who's giving it to them."

Weisselberg's grandchildren have attended the Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School in Manhattan's Upper West Side, which was subpoenaed in the district attorney's investigation.

Since last fall, Jennifer Weisselberg has been a cooperating witness and has given troves of documents to prosecutors. She told Insider in an interview earlier this year that the Trump Organization sometimes gave employees perks like apartments and tuition payments in lieu of monetary bonuses as a way to control their lives.

In a court hearing Monday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said attorneys for Weisselberg and the Trump Organization had until January to review 6 million pages of documents in the case and submit pretrial motions. Merchan told the attorneys to expect a trial to begin in August or September of next year.

Fischetti said Trump's tax savings in the alleged fraud scheme would amount to 'fucking pennies'

Bryan Skarlatos, an attorney representing Weisselberg in the case, said in court Monday that he expected more indictments from the grand-jury investigation.

Fischetti told Insider he didn't expect Trump to be among the indicted. He said the tax savings prosecutors describe would amount to "pennies" for the former president.

"This guy's a billionaire. What's he going to get out of this?" he said, adding: "It's fucking pennies! It's ridiculous. They have nothing on the president. Absolutely nothing."

Fischetti said he met with prosecutors in June and they'd brought no evidence that Trump had any personal knowledge of or involvement in the alleged tax scheme.

"They have said nothing about the president knowing about this," Fischetti said. "They have no tape recordings, they have no email, they have no text. They have no documents. They have nothing!"

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Weisselberg waiting for a car after leaving a court appearance on Monday. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Prosecutors typically meet with attorneys of people they plan to accuse of white-collar crimes shortly before indictments, but Fischetti said he'd heard nothing from the district attorney's team since that summer meeting. Mark Pomerantz - Fischetti's former law partner and a leading member of the Manhattan district attorney's team - assured Fischetti he'd give him a chance to defend Trump in advance of bringing any charges.

Attorneys for other witnesses who've testified before the grand jury said none of the clients had anything to say about Trump's personal involvement, according to Fischetti. He said prosecutors' only hope of indicting Trump would be to "coerce" people to tell the grand jury they acted at Trump's direction.

"The only thing they could possibly have are witnesses that would go into the grand jury and say, 'Yes, I got a free car and I got a free apartment, and he deducted it from my salary or would give it to me as a bonus so the company made money,'" Fischetti told Insider. "He needs witnesses! He has none! Zero!"

A representative for the Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment for this story.

Prosecutors also were said to have been investigating whether the Trump Organization broke tax laws by keeping two sets of books to secure favorable tax, insurance, and loan rates, as well as whether the company broke campaign finance laws by facilitating hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels in advance of the 2016 election.

Fischetti said he hasn't heard anything about charges related to those inquiries.

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