with Mariana Alfaro
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Imagine regularly engaging in potentially illegal activities online for years, and saving a detailed record of them in a computer folder marked “Red Flags.”
The indictment against former president Donald Trump’s eponymous business and its 73-year-old chief financial officer, unveiled yesterday, makes for riveting reading, partly because of its portrayal of scrupulously unscrupulous record-keeping.
One of the accusations against Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, detailed on page nine, describes a relatively simple scheme for that executive to pocket cash he allegedly did not report to the Internal Revenue Service.
In the charging document’s narrative, the business cut checks to an employee, who cashed them, then gave the cash to Weisselberg.
“The Trump Corporation booked this cash as ‘Holiday Entertainment,’ but maintained internal spreadsheets showing the cash to be part of Weisselberg’s employee compensation,” the indictment says.
In another section, the indictment says the Trump Organization was paying Weisselberg’s rent, electricity, telephone services, Internet, cable TV and garage fees.
“These payments were not booked in the Trump Corporations’ general ledger as employee compensation, but were instead labeled and deducted as ‘rent expense’ in the general ledger. However, for certain years, the Trump Organization maintained internal spreadsheets that tracked the amounts it paid for Weisselberg’s rent, utility, and garage expenses.”
It goes on to say “[s]imultaneously, the Trump Organization reduced the amount of direct compensation that Weisselberg received in the form of checks or direct deposits to account for the indirect compensation that he received in the form of payments of rent, utility bills, and garage expenses.”
In another section, the indictment says, Weisselberg requested the Trump corporation pay for items for his homes and the apartment of one of his children.
“These requests included such items as new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for Weisselberg’s home in Florida.
When Weisselberg made such requests, the Trump Corporation issued checks to pay the expenses and tracked the payment of the expenses internally as part of Weisselberg’s annual compensation.”
Those are just some of the things prosecutors detailed as they accused Trump’s business of a “scheme to defraud” the government and Weisselberg of larceny and tax fraud by ducking IRS payments on more than $1.7 million of income.
My colleagues Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O’Connell report:
“In charging papers, prosecutors alleged that the Trump Organization effectively kept two sets of books. In one — for internal use — it carefully tallied the value of benefits given to executives as part of their compensation: apartments, cars, furniture, tuition payments, even money for holiday gifts.
But in the documents that the Trump Organization sent to tax authorities, prosecutors said, those benefits were omitted. Prosecutors said the result was that the Trump Organization and its executives avoided taxes on their full compensation: [Weisselberg], they said, avoided paying more than $900,000.”
How much trouble there is for Trump’s company and Weisselberg – both pleaded not guilty – isn’t clear.
“Whether charges that his company evaded taxes by hiding payments to employees will do any political damage to Trump is unclear as he teases another presidential run in 2024 and looks to play a starring role in the 2022 midterm elections. He has retained the strong support of the Republican Party through a series of potentially damaging episodes, including bragging of sexual assault on tape, being impeached twice and spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election that served as fuel for the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
But Trump weathered those political storms by fighting back with the power and the staff of the White House behind him as well as a Twitter account that could immediately set the news agenda for the day. Those resources are now gone, testing Trump’s ability to turn allegations against him into political rallying cries. Current and former advisers also said that Trump was often most disturbed by threats to his businesses as opposed to political showdowns.”
And here are Shayna, David, Josh and Jonathan again:
“The most serious charge against Weisselberg, grand larceny in the second degree, carries a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison. But none of the charges carry a mandatory prison sentence, meaning that — even if convicted on all counts — he would not necessarily face jail.
If Trump’s companies were convicted, they could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.”
“Of the charges levied in New York State Supreme Court, the most serious one facing Weisselberg is second-degree grand larceny, a Class C felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
The most serious charge for the Trump Organization is criminal tax fraud. A corporation found guilty of criminal tax fraud under New York law may be fined ‘double the amount of the underpaid tax liability resulting from the commission of the crime’ or $250,000” whichever is larger.
At the Associated Press, Bernard Condon reports:
“The criminal tax fraud charges unsealed against Donald Trump’s company Thursday are a blow to a business already reeling from canceled deals following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hotels and clubs.
The indictment may make it harder for Trump to strike new deals, get back loans and bring in new money to his sprawling and indebted business.”
Bernard strikes this cautionary note:
“Although some companies have collapsed after criminal indictments, others have survived or even thrived, including Bank of America, which was convicted for reckless mortgage lending practices. Others that received what’s called deferred criminal charges have done well afterward, including drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was accused of accounting fraud, and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which was caught up in connection with Bernard Madoff’s massive fraud.
Stocks in all three companies are at or near all-time highs.”
What’s happening now
The U.S. economy added 850,000 jobs in June as the labor market showed renewed strength. “The unemployment rate changed little, ticking up to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent,” Eli Rosenberg reports. “The news is likely to be seen as a good sign for the economy more than one year into the pandemic, after numerous wrinkles have emerged to complicate a labor recovery many hoped would be faster at this level of vaccinations.”
Biden, in remarks on the June jobs report made this morning, attributed the rise in jobs to the American Rescue Plan. “More jobs than have ever been created in the first five months of any presidency in modern history, thanks to the incredible work of the entire team,” Biden said.”The last time the economy grew at this rate was in 1984, and Ronald Reagan was telling us it’s morning in America,” he added. “Well, it’s getting close to afternoon here. The sun is coming out.”
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “The shattered lives of Champlain Towers South,” by Silvia Foster-Frau, Ann Gerhart, Danielle Rindler, Karly Domb Sadof, Garland Potts and Artur Galocha: “The few hundred permanent residents of 8777 Collins Avenue in Surfside, Fla., had selected their homes for all sorts of reasons: what was available, what they could afford, the square footage and the view. In the end, their fate was determined by luck and an invisible fault line that became apparent around 1:30 a.m. that Thursday, when the central and east sections of the building fell away from the towers’ south side. That line ran through the 04 apartments, splitting them in half.”
- “Sha’Carri Richardson faces ban after positive marijuana test, could miss 100 meters in Tokyo,” by Adam Kilgore: “Richardson would receive at least a 30-day suspension and her performance at the trials would be disqualified under the anti-doping rules of World Athletics, track and field’s international governing body. The suspension would begin from when her test was taken. The timing would prevent her from competing in the 100 meters, as would the selection process for United States Track & Field — her times were disqualified, and USATF chooses individual teams based strictly on performance at the trials. But the suspension may expire in time for her to compete in the 4×100 relay.”
- “Concern over crime is growing — but Americans don’t just want more police, Post-ABC poll shows,” by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Scott Clement: “The percentage of Americans who say crime in the United States is ‘extremely serious’ has reached its highest point in two decades. The poll also finds that a sizable majority believe racial discrimination still exists in the country and say they hope that communities can find solutions to crime beyond putting more police officers on American streets, such as providing economic opportunities to people in low-income communities.”
… and beyond
- “Elise Stefanik says she supports police. Her votes suggest otherwise,” by the Times Union’s Chris Churchill: “The National Association of Police Officers says Stefanik voted with its legislative priorities just 57 percent of the time during the 116th Congress. That’s the lowest percentage among New York’s House of Representatives delegation — and notably lower than the percentages from Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (71 percent), Antonio Delgado (86 percent) and Paul Tonko (86 percent).”
- “‘We are invisible’: Discrimination and risks multiply for Indigenous LGBTQ in Mexico,” by Telemundo’s Albinson Linares: “In 2020, at least 79 LGBTQ people were killed in Mexico, about 6.5 per month, according to Letra S, Sida, Cultura y Vida Cotidiana, a civil organization dedicated to the defense of LGBTQ people that has been registering cases since 1998. … LGBTQ Mexicans … say they are battling multiple layers of discrimination, in many cases facing greater danger in their own Indigenous communities.”
The Biden agenda
The U.S. military vacated its main air base in Afghanistan, underscoring a withdrawal expected within days.
- “The departure from Bagram air base, about 45 miles north of Kabul, ends the U.S. military presence at Afghanistan’s most significant airfield. It has long been used to launch strike aircraft against the Taliban and other militant groups, and was once the headquarters for U.S. Special Operations troops in the war,” Dan Lamothe reports.
- “One of the defense officials said that Army Gen. Austin ‘Scott’ Miller, the top U.S. commander for nearly three years, remains in charge and retains the ability to protect U.S. troops if required as the withdrawal continues.”
Advocates decried the Supreme Court’s surprisingly sweeping voting rights decision.
- “The Supreme Court’s ruling in a Voting Rights Act case Thursday may appear modest in scope and subdued in rhetoric, but it will have a sweeping impact — undercutting efforts to challenge a slew of new laws Republican-led states have passed imposing new restrictions on the ballot, lawyers and civil rights activists said,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro report. “‘It will have a devastating impact on our ability, and other civil rights groups’ ability, to protect the rights of voters through the courts,’ said NAACP President Derrick Johnson.”
- “The 6-3 loss for voting rights advocates also resurfaced second-guessing of the Democratic National Committee’s decision to file the suit on which the justices ruled, targeting Arizona’s longstanding refusal to allow out-of-precinct voting and a 2016 law banning collection of mail-in ballots. … ‘Certainly in retrospect, one would say this case was not the best case to bring,’ said David Cole, the national legal director of the ACLU.”
- “The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, adopts five ‘guideposts’ to assess voting rules, while explicitly declining to announce a test to govern future cases.”
Biden unveiled an unprecedented government-wide strategy to encourage U.S. citizenship.
- “The idea is to find a whole-of-government way to reach out to people who are able to naturalize,” a Citizenship and Immigration Services official told CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, adding “that there are 9 million people in the US who are lawful permanent residents who may be eligible to apply for citizenship.”
- “That includes, for example, holding naturalization ceremonies at national parks to raise awareness, partnering with the US Postal Service to display promotional posters at Postal Service facilities about becoming a US citizen, and engaging with the Department of Veterans Affairs and veteran service organizations to find ways to educate service members and veterans on citizenship.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland suspended federal executions temporarily.
- “In a memo to senior officials, he said serious concerns have arisen about the arbitrariness of capital punishment, its disparate impact on people of color, and ‘the troubling number of exonerations’ in death penalty cases,” NBC News’s Pete Williams reports. “Garland ordered a review of the revised lethal injection protocol and directed the Bureau of Prisons to stop using that method while that is underway.”
The Biden administration has so far met most of its goals in the fight against coronavirus. But it unfortunately isn’t over yet.
- “Jeff Zients picked up a copy of the ‘National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,’ a bound document clocking in at around three pounds, and dropped it on the table with a loud thud. ‘That’s how we spent the transition, putting together that plan,’ he said, chuckling at his own theatrics,” Ben Terris reports. “To draft this playbook, Zients and his Covid-19 Response Team had considered how to rebuild trust in government, set up mass vaccination sites, reopen schools and deal with racial inequities exacerbated by a global pandemic. One thing Zients hadn’t considered: just how difficult it would be to print the thing.”
- “On the first full day of the new administration, Zients and his deputy, Natalie Quillian, circled the block for 45 minutes, unable to figure out how to get past the security that had sprung up after the Jan. 6 insurrection. … Five months later, Zients’s tone was almost giddy as he and Quillian sat in his West Wing office. … The reason should be obvious to any American who has gone to a party maskless and carefree in the past few months.”
- “‘I’m biased, but I do feel like it’s been a very, very successful effort,’ Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a phone interview. Even to an objective observer, the administration has triumphed in its battle against the virus by most metrics — with at least one notable exception: On May 4, Biden set a goal of getting at least one dose of vaccine into 70 percent of U.S. adults by the Fourth of July.”
- “And yet, for all the celebrating, there are signs that the White House is beginning to bump against the edges of its power to end the pandemic in the United States. The pace of new vaccinations has slowed dramatically. … The long-term decline in new cases that began just before Biden took office has flattened considerably; in some states, infections have started to rise again. An increasing share of those new cases are from the highly transmissible delta variant.”
India’s official coronavirus death toll surpassed 400,000 today as the nation continued to grapple with a surge driven in part by the delta variant.
- “While the outbreak appears to have peaked in India — with 853 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours — the more virulent variant that spurred its spring wave is now seeding new virus clusters from Moscow to Jakarta to rural Missouri,” Erin Cunningham reports. “The delta variant, first detected in India, has caused steep spikes in new cases even in nations with high vaccination rates such as Britain and Israel, which on Thursday recorded its highest daily infection rate in three months, the Associated Press reported.”
- “On Friday, England’s public health authority said that new delta cases had risen 46 percent over the past week, with the variant accounting for about 95 percent of infections across Britain. Officials in both Britain and Israel, however, have credited the vaccines — including those developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech — with weakening the link between infections and deaths.”
Johnson & Johnson said its vaccine is effective against the delta variant.
- “Blood samples obtained from eight inoculated people who participated in a laboratory study showed that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot generated a strong immune response against the delta variant, the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company said,” Katerina Ang reports. “The data so far indicates that the three U.S.-approved vaccines offer effective protection against all known variants of the virus.”
Australia locked out thousands of its citizens as cases mount.
- “Officials agreed to halve the number of people permitted to enter the nation under an already strict border policy that bars entry to nearly everyone except returning citizens, residents and their immediate families, who must quarantine for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense,” Rachel Pannett reports. “Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has come under fire for a slow vaccination rollout, said further restricting international arrivals was ‘a prudent action while we remain in this suppression phase of the virus.’”
Quote of the day
“We have spent a hell of a lot of time in the last 18 months dying with this virus, and now we are trying to figure out how to live with it,” said Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who served on Biden’s coronavirus advisory board during the transition. “There’s no end to it.”
Hot on the left
Trumpworld has a new app, and it is being bankrolled by a fugitive Chinese billionaire. The new network, led by Trump adviser Jason Miller, is called Gettr and it is supported by the fugitive billionaire who once invited Steve Bannon to live on his yacht, the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng report. Trump fans wary of social media censorship started to sign up immediately, but “what’s not made clear to Gettr’s new users, though, is that the site received initial funding from a foundation owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and his family. … ‘Some of the initial seed money has come from his family foundation,’ Miller said of Guo. … While Miller downplayed Guo’s connection, sites associated with the billionaire have suggested that Gettr is Guo’s brainchild.”
Trump won’t join the social media network.
Hot on the right
J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” which focuses on the “social and economic underpinnings of Trump’s appeal to the white working class, said on Thursday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the Senate in Ohio,” the New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters writes. “Vance, 36, enters the campaign as a well-known and well-financed first-time candidate facing an open field. The Republican incumbent, Senator Rob Portman, is retiring after two terms. The race is one of a few in next year’s midterm elections that could determine which party controls the upper chamber of Congress, which is now split 50-50.”
At a campaign kickoff event in Middletown, Ohio, Vance presented his conservative platform. “If you look at every issue in this country,” Vance, a venture capitalist, said, “every issue I believe traces back to this fact: On the one hand, the elites in the ruling class in this country are robbing us blind, and on the other, if you dare complain about it, you are a bad person.”
As news of his interest in the race surfaced, some pointed out that, in 2016, Vance voted for Evan McMullin, not Trump:
Reaching 70% people vaccinated, visualized
The bipartisan infrastructure deal that the White House and lawmakers struck last week includes $579 billion in new spending to rebuild roads and bridges, improve public transit systems and invest in broadband infrastructure, according to the White House.
Today in Washington
Biden and Harris will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers, the World Series champions, to the White House at 11:40 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., the president will take part in a naturalization ceremony for new citizens with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Tracy Renaud.
Harris will travel to Los Angeles this evening, where she will remain overnight.
We hope you have a happy Fourth of July weekend! Here’s what’s happening – and what’s safe – this weekend in Washington: “The National Park Service will set off 17 minutes of fireworks near the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, starting at 9:09 p.m. Traditionally, revelers gather on the National Mall and on the city’s many rooftops and hills long before dusk to picnic, socialize and stake out a good view. In neighborhoods across the District, expect cookouts galore. The Palisades neighborhood, on the city’s western edge, and Barracks Row on Capitol Hill will again host their traditional parades, which went on hiatus last year,” write Julie Zauzmer and Justin George.
And Stephen Colbert did a roundup of the FBI’s roundup of Capitol rioters: