In the matter of the indictment of both the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Weisselberg is charged with illegally avoiding taxes on $1.76 million he allegedly received in benefits over 15 years. These untaxed benefits included the use of a company car and apartment.
It is entirely possible that prosecutors brought low level charges against Mr. Weisselberg in order to pressure him to cooperate with the investigation of Mr. Trump. If he cooperates he gets some sort of immunity deal; if not, the threat of more serious charges hangs over his head. In any event prosecutor Carey Dunne said in court that “It’s not about politics”.
Except that it obviously is.
If the whole affair were not about politics serious indictments would have been handed down a long time ago. Remember that the indictment charges that the tax evasion scheme—more akin to a parking ticket—has been going on since at least 2005. Add to that the fact that Weisselberg has been working for Trump for 50 years. And we are to believe that prosecutors suddenly discovered that the Trump organization committed the unspeakable crime of not paying withholding taxes on a company car and apartment?
Consider. Somehow or other those very same prosecutors, along with their friends in the press, managed to turn a blind eye to the financial machinations of the Clinton Foundation. Nor could the press get very interested in the ongoing Hunter Biden saga, even though Hunter Biden admitted that he was (and is) under investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Delaware. For that matter, most of the press (we don’t know about the DOJ) remains remarkably incurious about the extent to which Hunter Biden’s finances were mixed in with his father’s when he needed extra cash to pay Russian hookers. See story here.
In addition, there are technical issues here that strongly suggest this exercise is political. First, it is clear that the prosecutors are squeezing Mr. Weisselberg to turn on Mr. Trump. That implies that they can’t make a case solely with the documents. The fact that they need a star witness suggests a weak case.
Second, the charges that are being so enthusiastically reported in the press are federal offenses. So why is the case being prosecuted in state court? New York is barred from prosecuting if federal authorities bring charges on the same facts. Moreover, it is far easier to prosecute a case in federal court. The most likely explanation is that the feds are not interested because they don’t think much of the case.
Third, it would be much easier to make a federal conspiracy case against the Trump Organization than go the state route. Again, why is NY State leading the charge? Probably because NY Attorney General Letitia James thinks she has a shot at Andrew Cuomo and this case would be the way to capitalize on that. (For more on the technical aspects, see this story.)
There is another question that must be asked. Why is it that after a summer of rioting, arson and looting, not to mention a surge in murders, the state decided to expend its resources on what is sure to be a political spectacle rather than the pursuit of serious wrongdoing? (Note: not for a minute do I doubt that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are guilty of the charges).
To answer the question: There are two reasons why these charges are being pursued. The first is tribal hatred, pure and simple. New York City is a seething cauldron of Trump hatred and anything that hurts Trump is good. Second, as the policy prescriptions of the national Democratic Party become more widely known, and the public begins to recoil, the first order of business is to change the subject. And what better way than to gin up some Trump hatred in the belly of the beast?
I have little doubt that Donald J Trump and his ilk have played fast and loose with the rules, and maybe committed crimes, for decades. Just like the Clintons. But this action by NY State reeks of selective prosecution. It represents the continuing and disgraceful politicization of the justice system. In the end, perverting the justice system to seek revenge on political enemies is what you expect from a banana republic, not a liberal democracy. And a prosecutor who does that is far more dangerous than a loser like Donald J Trump.