Thursday, August 18, 2022

It Ain't Over 'Till the Fat Man Screams

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
My colleague here at Pottersville, Amanda Marcotte at Salon and other pundits had noted days ago that Donald Trump had the week from Hell. The Law of Averages generally evens out and life eases up, unless you're Job or Donald Trump. And even though it hasn't exactly set the media ecosystem on fire, the fact is that today, as expected, Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to all 15 counts with which he'd been charged last summer.
     It was part of a plea deal that had been months in the works. Weisselberg, a 49 year employee who'd risen to become the CFO of the Trump Organization and whose tenure goes back well into the heyday of Fred Trump, had agreed to plead guilty to those 15 counts of tax fraud and other charges. He won't roll over on the fat man or any of his children but against two Trump entities within the Trump Organization.
    That's bad news if you're Donald Trump. Weisselberg's testimony, while the agreement may have allowed he not testify against the Trump family directly, can still indirectly presage the corporate death knell of the Trump Organization. The criminal charges brought against Weisselberg came courtesy of the Manhattan DA's office but Letitia James, the New York AG, may use the evidence that Weisselberg will be compelled to provide during the Trump Org's own trial starting on October 24th.
    Then, pending Weisselberg's truthful testimony, he will get sentenced to five months at Riker's Island and, unless he founds an Aryan Brotherhood chapter or leads an Attica-style revolt, should get out in about 100 days. Letitia James could then appropriate the evidence that comes out in discovery for her long-running civil investigation. James was foiled in her attempts to dissolve the NRA. Maybe she'll get lucky when she moves to dissolve the Trump Organization just as its "charitable foundation" was in 2018 under James' predecessor, Barbara Underwood.
    Weisselberg had pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud-related charges going back 16 years. including not paying taxes on a luxury apartment, a parking space associated with it, leasing costs of a luxury car, private school tuition for his grandchildren, in short, on about $1.76 million of income and perks. The perks in and of themselves were not illegal. Executives commonly get them. Weisselberg's mistake was in not paying taxes for them.
     The plea agreement and light jail term includes not just testimony against the Trump Org and its entities but also restitution to the city of New York to the tune of $1.94 million for back taxes and penalties. And, if Weisselberg gets cold feet, as the judge warned him today, it would automatically void the plea agreement and he could get sent to Riker's for 5-15 years.
     But what's really interesting is not what Weisselberg got but what he didn't get: Namely, a coverage provision.

  "Coverage provision"?  
In the legal world, a coverage provision is what gets neatly included into any sweetheart plea deal that deserves to be called as such. It was a feature that was quietly stitched into Jeffery Epstein's plea deal  14 years ago in Miami that was brokered by his defense attorney and "prosecutor" Alex Acosta, who was, inexplicably, made Trump's Labor Secretary.
    The coverage provision is so-called because it covers a defendant from any and all future charges pending honoring the terms of a plea deal. In Epstein's case, he pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting prostitution (essentially calling one of Epstein's countless underage victims a whore) and in return he got a greatly reduced sentence that included 12 hours a day of free, fun time from the Sheriff's stockade in which he had free run of the place.
    Weisselberg didn't get any of that. So, the Manhattan DA's attorneys stood pat on that and wouldn't guarantee Weisselberg immunity from future charges. That means Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg could bring charges as well but, of course, it's Alvin Bragg, so that's a Jovian-sized "if".
    So, if Weisselberg and his attorneys, who by all accounts are high-priced legal professionals who justify their high billable hours, agreed to that, that meant they had Weisselberg by the short hairs all this time. Maybe the Manhattan DA's attorneys soothed Weisselberg's fears that he could be prosecuted at a later date on other charges pending his testimony but it's not the same thing as a coverage provision.
     So, Weisselberg's testimony this fall could very well spell the end of the Trump Organization, which butters most of Trump's bread. And, again, the baleful specter of Letitia James will be silently lurking in the background, listening intently and taking notes in preparation of kicking some very fat, toneless ass.
     Yes, the DOJ's blizzard of subpoenas and search warrants of late is all very exciting stuff. So is James' civil investigation into Trumpworld, as is Fani Willis' own criminal investigation into Trump and his cronies' attempts to throw the 2020 election in Fulton County, Georgia. But the news of Weisselberg pleading guilty today should make Trump sweat lady finger hollow point bullets and Americans who care about the rule of law to reserve high-priced bottles of champagne at their local liquor stores.


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