Prosecutors in the Trump Organization tax fraud trial said in their closing arguments Friday that the former president sanctioned a sweeping 15-year off-the-books compensation program for top corporate executives.
Prosecutors’ attention to Donald Trump just before the case is handed over to a jury marks a notable shift in a week-long trial that has largely focused on other top executives at the family business. Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“Donald Trump specifically sanctions tax fraud. That’s what this document shows,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told a Manhattan Criminal Court jury on Friday. “This whole narrative that Donald Trump is fortunately ignorant just isn’t real.”
Defense attorneys objected to the late procedural step by prosecutors, who also mentioned Trump at the beginning of Thursday’s closing arguments.
Michael van der Veen, who represents Trump Payroll Corporation in the case, asked the judge for a mistrial.
“We selected a jury… based on popular representations that Donald Trump was not on trial,” he said Friday, adding that prosecutors have now “made him a co-conspirator.”
Van der Veen said it was wrong to mention Trump’s name in connection with the crime in this case. “It’s totally inappropriate, it’s a bias he imposed on the jury that cannot be reversed.”
Steinglass replied, “We have religiously avoided politics.”
Steinglass went on to argue that he can name the CEO if the case is against his company. “It had nothing to do with him being Donald Trump, but with him being the CEO of the company. If his name was John Doe there would be no objection here.”
The case is being heard in the State Supreme Court, New York’s highest court.
The 15-strong indictment in the case accuses the company and longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg of fraud, tax fraud and falsifying records. Weisselberg was also hit with a large theft report. Prosecutors say he used his position to pay taxes on $1.7 million in income.
Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to 15 counts in August. Nobody else was charged.
Trump has publicly branded the investigation into his company as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said this week that he was surprised by the renewed attention paid to Trump in the case, but told prosecutors they could make their allegations during closing arguments because a Much of the discussion before the trial and during jury selection revolved around the fact that Trump was not at the defense table.
Additionally, attorneys for Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation invoked the former president’s name several times Thursday, saying several times he had no knowledge of tax systems or Weisselberg’s admitted illegal activity.
Merchan on Friday denied the defense’s motion for mistrial. “I don’t think it’s necessary to declare a mistrial, nor do I think it’s a thought,” he said.
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations in the trial on Monday.