- Donald Trump’s real-estate empire faces little immediate fallout from Tuesday’s tax-fraud conviction.
- NY law limits the penalties Trump faces to $250K per tax count and $10K per crime.
- But the Manhattan DA’s victory could embolden the office to pursue more cases.
Thanks to the penalty limits in New York’s tax and penal codes, the Trump Organization — found guilty of tax-fraud on Tuesday — faces the slightest of wrist-slaps at its January 13 sentencing.
But the conviction could embolden the Manhattan DA’s office to pursue more cases against the former president and his company, insiders say.
Donald Trump’s real-estate and golf-resort empire faces a maximum of about $1.6 million in penalties at sentencing, essentially a rounding error for a company worth more than $2 billion.
The number is so low because strict limits in New York law essentially tie the hands of the trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. The potential fines come to just $250,000 per tax count and $10,000 per crime.
But while no one will be hauled off in handcuffs — Trump was not charged in the case, and there were no defendants beyond the two subsidiaries — there could be more in store for the former president than next month’s relatively painless sentencing.
Even before Tuesday’s verdict, District Attorney Alvin Bragg was at least considering further charges involving Trump and/or his company, as the New York Times reported last month, possibly involving the 2015 Stormy Daniels hush-money case.
Then on Monday, the office hired Matthew Colangelo to beef up what has been a more than three-year Trump probe started by Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance, Jr.
“Just recently he has brought in outside counsel,” Vance told CBS News on Wednesday, speaking of the apparent re-energizing of Bragg’s Trump probe.
“It looks as if he is reengaging in a broader investigation which could include potential culpability of the former president himself,” Vance told the station.
“Personally I think it’s the right move, to continue the investigation and I’m glad to see that is the direction that DA Bragg is taking.”
The tax-fraud case against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, has been the probe’s only prosecution, and it’s been a clear success.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August, agreeing to testify against the company. And thanks in part to that testimony, a Manhattan jury rendered a unanimous, 17-count guilty verdict that took just 10 hours to reach.
That victory may embolden the DA’s office to go after Trump himself, former prosecutors said Wednesday.
Another tax case — this one involving Trump’s own personal taxes — could turn out to be that case, two former prosecutors told Insider.
While nothing else has materialized against the former president after three years of DA investigation, Trump’s tax records are a relatively new acquisition. The office has had eight years of Trump’s tax returns for about a year and a half, ever since Vance won a landmark Supreme Court battle for their access.
“To me, the question is, is there anything in Trump’s personal tax returns?” said Adam Kaufmann, a former Manhattan DA investigations chief and financial crimes prosecutor for the office.
“They’ve had them for a while,” added Kaufmann, a partner specializing in white-collar criminal defense at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss.
The Trump Organization trial showed that tax fraud was rampant just one tier down the corporate ladder from Trump himself, Kaufmann noted.
Trump’s own taxes, which he fought so hard to keep private, may likewise not hold up to scrutiny.
“And given everything else that is going on,” with the upcoming presidential election, “it seems to me that if they’re going to bring that case, they would probably bring that pretty damn soon.”
Another former top executive in the DA’s office agreed that of all the possible remaining cases against Trump in New York, a personal tax-fraud case may be the most likely. He asked not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to share information about his former employer.
He noted that Bragg’s hiring of Colangelo is a sign the DA is getting serious about taking one more shot at a Trump indictment.
Still, “these kinds of tax cases are hard to make, because of the complicated structures of his organization,” he said.
“He has 500 subsidiaries” he said of the Trump Organization. “Tracking his income could be very problematic because it goes through so many sources.”
He added, “Eventually, if you have to go to court, you better have the goods. It really has to be a slam dunk, the way the country is divided.
“If you’re going to go after the king,” he added, speaking figuratively, “you better f—-ing kill him.”