It was last summer when Donald Trump faced a rather brutal legal setback. A New York district attorney’s office brought charges against the former president’s business, the Trump Organization, as well as Allen Weisselberg, the Republican’s long-serving and trusted chief financial officer, alleging widespread tax fraud.
Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal charges tied to his indictment in a tax fraud case involving the company’s business dealings. He admitted to all of the counts in the indictment against him, filed last July. The judge said Weisselberg, 75, agreed to pay $1,994,321 in taxes, interest, and penalties as part of his guilty plea and to serve five months in jail.
Weisselberg’s name may not be familiar to national audiences, but when it comes to the former president’s business, few players are as important. The Wall Street Journal reported a while back that Weisselberg was described by a person close to the company as “the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.”
NBC News’ Katy Tur spoke to a former Trump Organization employee who added that Weisselberg “knows where all financial bodies are buried within the Trump Organization.”
With this in mind, it’s of interest that Weisselberg didn’t just plead guilty to all 15 charges pending against him — including multiple felonies — according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the former executive will also have to “testify truthfully in the upcoming criminal trial of the Trump Organization.”
That’s coming up fairly soon: Jury selection in the Trump Organization trial is scheduled to begin October 24.
Whether that testimony causes problems for the former president remains to be seen.
But in the meantime, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the “culture of lawlessness“ surrounding Trump — which, as regular readers know, continues to get worse.
- Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former adviser and former campaign aide, Roger Stone, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former White House national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was charged and convicted.
- Trump’s former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
- Trump’s former inaugural committee chair, Tom Barrack, was charged last year with illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of a foreign government. (Elliot Broidy was the vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee, and he found himself at the center of multiple controversies, and also pled guilty to federal charges related to illegal lobbying.)
And now the former CFO of Trump’s business has pleaded guilty to tax fraud.
To be sure, some of the aforementioned men were ultimately pardoned by the former president, who doled out pardons as party favors before exiting the White House, but this doesn’t change the “remarkable universe of criminality“ surrounding Trump.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, the number of criminals is important, but so too is the degree to which this dynamic conflicts with the story Trump was eager to tell about himself. For years, the Republican presented himself as being aggressively “tough on crime,” which he frequently tried to incorporate into his political message.
In 2019, for example, while making the case for a border wall, the then-president declared, “The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about crime.... But I care about crime.”
Trump cared so much about crime that he apparently surrounded himself with criminals.