My colleague Bonchie predicted that Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg would plead guilty in his tax-evasion trial in New York, and Thursday he did just that. The judge promptly sentenced him to 5 months in jail at Rikers Island and ordered him to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties.
Many are touting that the big news coming out of this case is that Weisselberg agreed to testify against the Trump Organization in a trial this fall. Notably, he will remain free on bail until that testimony is complete. Never Trumpers are licking their lips—but this is not the clear victory they’d hoped for because Weisselberg refused to agree to cooperate in a broader investigation into Trump. More on that in a moment. In the case this fall, meanwhile, Trump is not even a defendant. From the Associated Press:
The plea bargain also requires Weisselberg to testify truthfully as a prosecution witness when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related charges. The company is accused of helping Weisselberg and other executives avoid income taxes by failing to report their full compensation accurately to the government. Trump himself is not charged in the case. [Emphasis mine.]
Meaning that even if prosecutors prevail in the fall, The Donald himself won’t be shipped off to Rikers.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty to all 15 counts against him, admitting that he kept $1.7 of untaxed extras hidden and off the books. The perks included school tuition for his grandchildren, a rent-free Manhattan apartment and lease payments for his luxury car. Liberals are celebrating:
BREAKING: As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Allen Weisselberg is REQUIRED to testify at the company’s trial and admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out the tax scheme. Trump is toast.
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) August 18, 2022
Not so fast. As I mentioned, Weisselberg will testify against the Organization, but will not cooperate with a broader investigation against Trump himself. From the New York Times:
The plea deal does not require Mr. Weisselberg to cooperate with the district attorney’s broader criminal investigation of Mr. Trump, and his admissions will not implicate the former president. His willingness to accept jail time rather than turn on Mr. Trump underscores the extent of his loyalty to a family he has served for nearly a half-century, and it helped stymie the larger effort to indict Mr. Trump. [Emphasis mine.]
Those hoping for another “the walls are closing in” moment may be surprised when the Donald escapes once again. Prosecutors may have a win here, but it’s certainly not all they hoped for as they subjected Weisselberg to intense pressure to try to get him to “flip” on Trump and basically spill every secret he knows. It’s not going to happen. Weisselberg’s lawyer Nicholas A. Gravante Jr. issued a statement Thursday:
In one of the most difficult decisions of his life, Mr. Weisselberg decided to enter a plea of guilty today to put an end to this case and the yearslong legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family. Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he has agreed to serve 100 days. We are glad to have this behind him.
Despite not achieving their goal of getting Weisselberg to flip, prosecutors still tried to paint it as a victory. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, who is usually soft on crime, issued his own statement, saying that the plea “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity” and that “we look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization.”
Prosecutors and the Justice Department have been going after Trump with everything they’ve got for years now, and they’ve got yet another victim. This one is a 75-year old retired executive not named Donald Trump. Congratulations.