Donald Trump’s company is expected to be charged with tax-related crimes stemming from a New York investigation into the former president’s business dealings, according to sources.
The charges against the Trump Organisation and the company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, appear to involve non-monetary benefits the firm gave to senior executives, possibly including use of apartments, cars and school tuition.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report that charges were expected on Thursday.
The charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organisation would be the first criminal cases to arise from the two-year investigation led by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, a Democrat who leaves office at the end of the year.
Prosecutors have been scrutinising Mr Trump’s tax records, subpoenaing documents and interviewing witnesses, including Trump insiders and company executives.
A grand jury was recently set up to weigh evidence and New York attorney general Letitia James said she was assigning two lawyers to work with Mr Vance on the criminal investigation while she continues a civil investigation into Mr Trump.
Jason Miller, a former senior adviser to Mr Trump, spun the looming charges as “politically terrible for the Democrats”.
“They told their crazies and their supplicants in the mainstream media this was about President Trump. Instead, their Witch Hunt is persecuting an innocent 80 year-old man for maybe taking free parking!” he tweeted, apparently referring to Weisselberg, who is 73.
Mr Trump had condemned the investigation in a statement on Monday, calling Mr Vance’s office “rude, nasty and totally biased” in their treatment of Trump company lawyers, representatives and long-term employees.
The former president said the company’s actions were “things that are standard practice throughout the US business community, and in no way a crime”, and that Mr Vance’s probe was an investigation “in search of a crime”.
Mr Trump, who has been critical of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, was in Texas visiting the Mexico border on Wednesday. He did not respond to questions about the charges as he participated in a briefing with state officials.
Trump Organisation lawyers met Manhattan prosecutors last week in a last-ditch attempt to dissuade them from charging the company. Prosecutors gave the lawyers a Monday deadline to make the case that criminal charges should not be filed.
Ron Fischetti, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation, told the Associated Press this week that there was no indication Mr Trump himself was included in the first batch of charges.
“There is no indictment coming down this week against the former president,” Mr Fischetti said. “I can’t say he’s out of the woods yet completely.”
Weisselberg, a loyal lieutenant to Mr Trump and his property developer father Fred, came under scrutiny in part because of questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost.
Barry Weisselberg managed a Trump-operated ice rink in Central Park.
His ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, has been co-operating with the investigation and turned over reams of tax records and other documents to investigators.
Allen Weisselberg has worked for the Trump Organisation since 1973. The case against him could give prosecutors the means to pressure the executive into co-operating and telling them what he knows about Mr Trump’s business dealings.