Attorneys for the Trump Organization are reportedly set to meet with Manhattan prosecutors on Monday, in what, according to CNN and the Washington Post, could be a final meeting before District Attorney Cyrus Vance files charges against the company.
Former prosecutors with the Manhattan DA’s office described the meeting to TPM as final opportunity to argue for why their client should not be charged.
“It’s a little bit for show,” Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law and a former prosecutor in the office, told TPM. “Will they succeed? It’s almost a certainty that they won’t, in terms of changing the prosecutors’ minds.”
The meeting comes after the Trump Organization’s attorneys met virtually with prosecutors on Thursday, according to the New York Times. Prosecutors are reportedly considering charging the Trump Organization as a legal entity, as well as its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
The Manhattan DA’s office has been turning the screws on Weisselberg in an effort to persuade him to cooperate with the investigation. But after a Thursday meeting, Trump Org attorney Ronald P. Fischetti said that prosecutors would likely go forward with the case as part of an effort to keep the pressure on Weisselberg.
Michael Shapiro, a New York City defense attorney and former prosecutor, said that meetings like the one scheduled for Monday typically don’t involve a lot of talking from the prosecutors.
“It’s usually very one-sided, with the defense lawyers putting forth what they believe are their best arguments, and the prosecutors listening,” he told TPM.
Attorneys with Vance’s office suggested in litigation last year to enforce a grand jury subpoena for Trump’s tax returns that they are reviewing potential charges of tax and insurance fraud, relating to whether the Trump Org would deflate the value of its assets for tax purposes and inflate them for lenders and insurers.
Gershman told TPM that, at the stage of a final meeting with prosecutors, the question is less whether charges will be filed, and more what counts may be included and whether “individuals are going to be indicted along with the corporation.”
“For decades we knew that Trump was cheating — in Atlantic City, the university, his workers, the charities — and now everything is coming home to roost,” he said.
It remains unclear what charges may be filed. In addition to questions of tax and insurance fraud, prosecutors have also reportedly been reviewing untaxed fringe benefits that Weisselberg and others received from the Trump Org.
Any indictment of the Trump Org as a legal entity, however, could place the corporation in financial peril. Whether that happens may hinge on whether loan agreements involved have clauses that mandate a default upon the filing of criminal charges, Shapiro said.
All of this comes as Trump continues to describe any investigation into him, his entities, or his associates as part of the “greatest witch hunt in American history.”
That itself presents a thorny issue for Vance, so far as he can expect that any step he takes towards charging the Trump Org or anyone associated with it will face immediate and deafening accusations of being a selective, political prosecution. Scheduling meetings to hear out the Trump Org’s defense helps blunt that argument, Jeremy Saland, a defense attorney who formerly served as a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office, told TPM.
“It shows that Trump is being treated like other alleged white collar criminals,” Saland said. “It is not atypical for the District Attorney to allow an accused the opportunity to address potential allegations, provide evidence to contest charges, or to attempt to reach a resolution.”
“Even if the case continues on its trajectory, it takes some wind from Trump’s sails if he says he was not afforded the opportunity to defend himself prior to the voting of an indictment,” he added.