Jury Selection Begins In Trump Organization Tax Fraud Trial

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The Trump Organization stands trial this week on what prosecutors allege was a 15-year scheme to compensate top executives of former President Donald Trump’s company “off the books” to help them avoid paying taxes — with the company’s former chief financial officer appearing as the prosecution’s star witness.

Jury selection begins Monday, with potential panelists likely to be questioned intensely about whether they can be impartial in a case that involves the former president and his eponymous company.

The Trump Organization and Weisselberg, its longtime chief financial officer, were indicted last year following a yearslong investigation into the company’s financial practices by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty to 15 felony charges in August.

As part of his plea agreement, the loyal Trump confidant agreed to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, interest and penalties and serve five months in jail followed by five years of probation. Prosecutors said he also agreed “to testify truthfully at the upcoming trial of the Trump Organization” or face a sentence of up to 5 to 15 years in prison.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said Weisselberg had used his position at the company “to bilk taxpayers and enrich himself” and that his “plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony.”

Trump is not charged personally in the case and has blasted the investigation into his company and the charges against his longtime employee as part of a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

The company said in a statement at the time of Weisselberg’s plea that he was an “honorable man who, for the past four years, has been harassed, persecuted and threatened by law enforcement, particularly the Manhattan District attorney, in their never-ending, politically motivated quest to get President Trump.”

Judge Juan Merchan, who will be presiding over the trial in New York State Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan, shot down almost all the arguments presented by attorneys for the Trump Organization and Weisselberg in August, ruling that the evidence that was presented to the grand jury “was legally sufficient to support the charges in the indictment,” and that those proceedings were properly conducted and their “integrity unimpaired.”

The felonies that the indictment alleges the company committed include conspiracy, scheming to defraud, criminal tax fraud, and falsifying business records.

Under New York law, the Trump Organization faces up to about $1.6 million in penalties if convicted on all counts. Legal experts have told NBC News that a conviction could also hamper the company’s ability to obtain financing.