Closing arguments for Trump Organization criminal tax fraud trial begin Thursday

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a "Made in America" products showcase in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, July 23, 2018. Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of former FBI Director James Comey, ex-CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama-era national security officials who have criticized him. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Closing arguments for Trump Organization criminal tax fraud trial begin Thursday

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Prosecutors and defense lawyers are set to give their closing arguments on Thursday in the criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization, marking the beginning of the end of the yearslong investigation into the former president’s company and its financial dealings.

The closing arguments come after the defense team rested its case on Monday. The lawyers called two witnesses to the stand, including one outside accountant and a paralegal. New York Judge Juan Merchan set closing arguments for Thursday and Friday, with jury deliberations scheduled to begin on Monday.

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Prosecutors are accusing the Trump Organization of paying for the personal expenses of several company executives without reporting them as income. These payments included paying for the managers’ rent, car lease payments, and other expenses.

Prosecutors also allege the company partially paid these executives as independent contractors rather than company employees.

To convict the organization of criminal tax fraud successfully, prosecutors’ closing arguments must prove these actions benefited the company in some way and that the managers who benefited from such actions were acting “in behalf of” the company. The latter portion of that argument may get tricky, the judge acknowledged earlier this year, as state law does not explicitly define what acting “in behalf of” means in the context of such a case.

The Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty, and defense lawyers have sought to point the finger at Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the company.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme in August, testifying that he had accepted the illegal compensation for his own benefit and hid the payments from the company’s outside accountant. The former CFO continued this practice for years, ending it once Donald Trump was elected president and his company’s business practices came under new scrutiny.

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If found guilty on all nine counts, the company could be fined as much as $1.6 million. The charges would come as Trump is seeking a third White House bid, and the former president has denounced the trial as politically motivated.

The criminal trial is separate from another tax fraud investigation being conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused the Trump Organization of violating several state laws by manipulating its asset valuations. James filed that lawsuit in civil court in September, although it could take months to go through New York’s legal system before it reaches trial.

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