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tv   CNN Newsroom With Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell  CNN  July 1, 2021 11:00am-12:00pm PDT

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[music ends] this is "cnn breaking news". welcome to our viewers here in the united states and all around the world. i'm alisyn camerota. victor blackwell is off today. any moment we expect indictments to be unsealed against the trump organization and its chief financial officer, allen weisselberg. these charges are related to a criminal tax investigation in connection with perks and bonuses awarded to employees. weisselberg surrendered to prosecutors this morning. after the indictments were filed by a grand jury, there he is on your screen, he will be
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arraigned at this hour and is expected to plead not guilty. the trump organization released a statement about this, saying weisselberg, quote, is being used by the manhattan district attorney as a pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president, end quote. cnn's paula reed joins us live outside of the courthouse in lower manhattan. these charges could be unsealed at any moment. what will be revealed here? >> reporter: well, we expect these charges will be related to alleged tax crimes stemming from allegations that employees at the trump organization received certain perks. alisyn, we are not talking about free coffee. the allegations are that employees were receiving things like free apartments, free cars, even free school tuition. these are the kinds of benefits that could amount to tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. so we do expect when these charges are unsealed they will be connected to alleged tax crimes. now, an attorney for mr. weisselberg has made it clear he is going to plead not guilty in this arraignment and
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he is vowing to fight these charges. but these charges today do increase the pressure on the long-time cfo to cooperate with prosecutors against his former boss, former president trump. now, so far weisselberg's team has told prosecutors he won't flip, he's not going to cooperate. but sometimes, alisyn, once you have criminal charges on the table and you have a chance to assess the strength of the evidence that can sometimes change one's mind. so we'll see what happens when these are unsealed, but at this point there is no indication that the former president or any member of his family will be charged any time soon. prosecutors will likely need at least one, maybe more cooperating witnesses or additional evidence before they would be able to go after the former president successfully. >> okay. paula reid, we will come back to you as soon as there are any developments. meanwhile, cnn senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor ellie honig joins me now. we will be getting details on the indictment at any moment. what are key things to look for?
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>> we are about to get answers finally. as a former prosecutor that has done a lot of indictments, the three big things i'm looking for. first of all, what is the extent of the alleged fraud? how many dollars are we talking about, because the more fraud, the more pressure on weisselberg. if he committed over a million dollars in tax fraud, he will be looking at a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail. if it is a few thousand he could be looking at a misdemeanor which will bring little pressure are him to flip. second of all, will other trump organization executives be referenced in the indictment. we probably won't see proper names but prosecutors sometimes will use generic labels to refer to other people, official one, vice president, too. of course, we all remember the infamous reference to individual one, we knew that was donald trump. are we going to see references like that to other officials in the trump org? it can give us a sense where prosecutors are on potentially making cases down the line against other people inside the trump organization. third, are we going to see other
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crimes charged beyond the tax fraud we already know about? we don't know yet, but i will be looking to see are there any surprise charges there. are we going to see money laundering charges, are we going to see state level racketeering charges, is there any element of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, document tampering, anything like that beyond the tax fraud. the more different charges they bring the more leverage they will have to try to pressure allen weisselberg to cooperate, to put pressure on the trump ofrg. that's where i will look when we get the indictment in a few minutes. >> we have just seen new york attorney general letitia james arriving, lawyers for weisselberg as well as the trump organization. from what you know thus far, from what we've heard, from what has been leaked out, are you expecting this to be some sort of bombshell or does it feel more like small potatoes in your world? >> it is not a bombshell on its own. here is where i come out. if this is all there is, then, yes, you said it exactly right, small potatoes. if all you get a corporate indictment which is not against
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any human being, just a financial case, look, that's significant. if it compromises the trump organization, but nobody goes to jail. then a charge against allen weisselberg for tax fraud, it is not much as a bottom line result. the question is and we'll get clues in a few minutes, is this just the first step to something much bigger, much broader that hits on other people in the orpg. >> is that how it works? do prosecutors start with something small and work up to something bigger or is it the inverse? >> there are two approaches. one approach i have done many times is you try to pick off somebody you think is vulnerable and potential valuable as a cooperator. it is like if you pull on a thread you hope you catch something and unwind the whole sweater. the other approach is you lead with your strongest foot. you say, here is what we got, here is the most powerful evidence we have against the most powerful people and start strong. that way it looks like -- i mean it better be for the da and the ag's sake, it better be let's pull on a thread and see what we get, else it is a bust. >> we need you to stand by for the next couple of hours. >> i will. >> as we await word here.
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thank you very much for explaining that to us. still ahead, i will have a live one-on-one interview with donald trump's former personal attorney, michael cohen, on what he thinks this means for the former president and his family. now to florida. officials in surfside have temporarily paused search and rescue operations because of concerns that the rest of the condo, the tower could come down. president biden and the first lady are there in florida, and right now they are trying to console the devastated families still awaiting word on their loved ones. the latest victims, 4-year-old emma guara and her 10-year-old sister lucia. their bodies were recovered last night. the death toll is now 18 people, 145 people are still unaccounted for. cnn correspondent rosa flores and chief white house correspondent kaitlan collins are both with us now. rosa, first, how long are they suspended the search and rescue
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effort for? >> reporter: you know, i have been in contact with the public information officers on the scene, and they tell me that nothing has changed. operations have not resumed yet. but i can tell you that all of this was triggered at 2:11 earlier this morning when the monitors on scene went off. according to the fire chief, there were multiple portions of this site that were in motion. one column in particular was swinging six to twelve inches. alisyn, we have talked about the dangers that these brave men and women expose themselves to try to save lives, and this was one intense moment. here is how the fire chief described it. take a listen. >> concern assesses included six to twelve inches of movement in a large column hanging from the structure that could fall and cause damage to the support columns in the garage area. slight movement in the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the structure near the north and south corner of the building
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that could cause additional failure of the building. movement in the debris pile immediately adjacent to the south side of the structure. >> reporter: now, alisyn, it is important to note that the first people who learned about the search and rescue operation stopping were the families. they are the ones that always get the first news coming out of this scene. alisyn. >> to you. as you know, the bidens have had their own personal tragedies and we know the president leans on his own personal experience when he consoles families. so have we seen them interacting with the families yet? >> reporter: well, they've been in a closed room for almost two hours now, alisyn, with the president meeting with these families of the victims and those who are still unaccounted for. of course, that came just hours after rosa was talking about them getting that news that these rescue -- these search and rescue operations had been paused. of course, it is not news that the families want to hear because even if they have not
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heard anything they are still hopeful that any minute now they could get news about what has happened to their loved ones. so this is expected to be the most difficult part of the president's day today. he came down here earlier, of course. he met with local officials, but now this meeting with the families, we're told it is getting incredibly personal in the room. some of the families posted accounts of what the president has been saying to them on social media. of course, invoking his own experiences with grief, something that has dated back to when he first became a senator, and even when he was vice president when his son died. so those are moments that he is going to use to connect with these families, saying that there will be people who say, "i know what you're going through, i'm so sorry," and essentially the president was saying it is really tough what they're going through but no one knows what you are doing to -- what is going and what is happening except you, and the fact that they are grieving in such a public manner is also another layer of grief added to this. so that is what is happening behind closed doors right now. we are expecting this meeting to
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go on for at least three hours, potentially even longer according to the white house, and then we will hear from the president after this. >> okay. kaitlan collins, rosa flores, thank you for the update from florida. our breaking news coverage continues. we are watching for developments any minute out of the manhattan district attorney's office and the charges about to be revealed against the trump organization. we'll bring you those the second they happen. plus, a major announcement from house speaker nancy pelosi. republican liz cheney will serve on the committee to investigate the january 6th insurrection. what republicans have to say about that.
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we are following breaking
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news out of new york where the cfo of the trump organization just entered court. he is expected to be arraigned in moments, and the indictments against him and the trump organization will be unsealed for the first time for all of us to see. there is allen weisselberg somewhere in this crowd, i believe. there he is walking in. let's discuss all of this with our cnn senior legal analyst laura coates, cnn senior legal analyst elie honig, former u.s. attorney in the district of new york, and cnn analyst jennifer rogers. let me start with you, laura. as a former federal prosecutor, what do you think we will see in moments? >> well, we are going to see the result of what two different offices in new york have come together to do. remember, talking about letitia james, the ag in new york, followed by manhattan da cy vance.
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they collaborated and it was a rare combination of efforts here. the question is will it be in like a lion and out like a lamb. certainly, tax charges can be quite significant, we know this. it is a violation of the law not to pay your taxes. the only thing that is certain is death and taxes. they've got to be paid. but in the end game here, if the goal was somehow to implicate somebody whose namesake was on the building we have yet to see that actually unfold. but, remember, we are talking about the complementary of the tax law and the penal system in new york combining. the corporation would not be going to prison. that's not a result. allen weisselberg as an individual could actually face very serious charges here if the charges are around his personal conduct. but at the end of the day, it is not only rare to have had these two offices combine, it would be rare to charge a company based on fringe benefits that are given out even if it is a violation of tax law. so we're all eager to see what actually comes about this very
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important day. >> jennifer, do you think that we will see the name of donald trump or someone in donald trump's family or will this be one of the situations where we see individual a or executive a, something like that? >> well, alisyn, prosecutors don't use the names of people who aren't being charged. so if they are referenced at all, it will be with some sort of synonym like you mentioned. i'm not sure we will see it at all if the charges are as reported, namely related to the fringe benefits fraudulently given to employees including allen weisselberg. we may not see that at all. it may come if we see additional charges with respect to the inflating and deflating of assets, that sort of thing, that may have to wait until later. >> elle, i was interested to see allen weisselberg there. i didn't expect him to see him in handcuffs. wearing a mask and he was accompanied by what you could
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see that looked like guards of the court at some time. is that unusual? >> no, that's how it works. we have been talking about how seeing your name on an indictment makes it real, makes it tangible and vision ral. we are seeing this clip with weisselberg, about to turn 74 years old, the man never arrested in his life, handcuffed, liberty restrained, led through court by marshals, by security. take about making it real. there are few things more tangible than steel handcuffs on your wrists. we talked about how he's not going to flip, okay, maybe. but when you actually get arrested, handcuffed and marched in front of a judge, it can change things for people. >> i guess, one more beat on this, even for white collar crimes, tax crimes, you are handcuffed and marched into court? >> it is real. people go to jail for this stuff, alisyn. that's why it is important to see how much fraud we're talking about because it will tell us how much jail time he is looking at. >> abbie, "politico" was reporting earlier when donald trump heard the news that allen
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weisselberg had been indicted he was -- i think the quote was excited. that somehow he thought he would be able to use it to his advantage, that somehow for his potential 2024 presidential run he would be able to frame this as a witch hunt. i know it is unknowable, but it was an interesting response. >> yeah. i mean i don't know that -- i don't know that even for donald trump the prospect that federal investigators are scrutinizing decades of the financial dealings of his corporation, even for former president trump i don't think it would be something that is exciting to him. but i think that underlying, you know, what is happening here is that this is a president who uses these kinds of investigations to rally his base, rally his supporters, to claim that there is a witch hunt against him. you know, for the four years that he was president there was a sort of de facto sense that in some ways the presidency itself was protecting him from a real
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deep dive into what was going on with his companies and his financial dealings, protecting him from debt repayment obligations potentially. he doesn't have that anymore, and that's a real problem for him. but at the same time this is also someone who is saying that he's going to run for president again, and so everything that is happening here is also being put into that political frame where, you know, as a prospective candidate, even for 2024, you have trump wanting to use things like this to raise money, to rally his supporters, and to get them to believe that there is a grand conspiracy against him. that is all part of how he keeps his supporters into the fold. >> laura, elle and i were talking earlier about prosecutor's strategy. do you lead with your big, flashy charges or do you know pull, i think ely said, one
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thread and work up to unraveling the whole thing. what do you think their strategy is today? >> well, you know, the strategy always has to be that you bring a charge that you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and your charges can evolve. remember, you are talking about prospects of cooperation, prospects of more information, evidence coming in. that can be amended, so you are not particularly confined to what you first bring, but trying to downgrade your charges can be very problematic. it can signal in a very public case like this some problem with your evidentiary burden or ability to prove your case. ultimately, there's a lot of talk that's made by, you know, my colleagues and all of us here about the notion of trying to lean on a particular person to have them become a cooperator, to get a so-called bigger fish. it must be said the trump organization is in and of itself a very big fish. allen weisselberg, also a very
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big fish. the idea that he would only be useful to try to bring somebody else in or implicate somebody else, and what i think is very much so dismissive of what the severity of the charges may very well be. now, it is true, obviously the prospect of facing federal incarceration for anyone is very problematic, but it might be that he has outlived his usefulness as a cooperator. it may be that they're able to corroborate or substantiate the types of things they needed him for, for any prospective bigger fish already. so a lot of this is a balancing act of prosecutors about trying to get things to substantiate their case, corroboration, but people outlive their usefulness. one key way to know that is an indictment against them. >> and then what happens after they've outlived their usefulness? they're indicted and then the prosecutors don't need them anymore? in other words then they can go to jail and the prosecutors don't care? >> i mean it could be that they,
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in terms of usefulness, they are no longer someone that will get the lienience or the benefit of a plea bargain. they don't just leverage the prospect of criminal charges. once they decided to bring them, there's probably been already as we know the attorneys at the top agencies met with prosecutors trying to evade and prevent this very thing from happening. once those conversations break down and it is evident that the charges are imminent, well, then you have a different strategy. now it is about, well, we can continue with the trial if you would like to actually have these charges stick or you can cooperate in another context. but the idea of just notice starting over and saying, we were threatening charges before, do you want to cooperate, now that charges have been made he has a very different inquiry. just finally on this point, the idea of usefulness here, if prosecutors are able to corroborate their cases independent of somebody who they might have on the hook, they no
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longer need that person's cooperation in order to prove their case. it might be -- and we don't know if weisselberg is in that position as we speak. >> just to update everyone, we hear that the judge has just entered the courtroom. so obviously things will be proceeding apace now, and we will keep everyone posted as to when we find out anything of this indictment being opened and its contents being revealed. court is under way we are being told, so at any moment we will have more information. jen, you know, there's something that critics of, i would say, the former president feel, which is that he has been able to skirt accountability for various crimes, alleged crimes, accusations. so people around him have gone to jail and have been convicted but he has not. do you think that there is a scenario by which allen weisselberg is held accountable for somehow these perks or fringe benefits that the company
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was giving allegedly but donald trump could say he knew nothing about it? >> yeah, absolutely. i mean in a lot of ways it is like a drug kingpin. you know, you insulate yourself with the people below you taking the hit because you make it very hard for law enforcement to get all the way up to where you are and to prove the intent that you have to show in order to make criminal charges stick. so if allen weisselberg does not cooperate and if authorities are unable to find other evidence that donald trump himself participated in this scheme or any of the other schemes that are being investigated -- remember, this fringe benefit tax scheme is only one of the things that are under investigation -- then they will not be able to charge him. they have to charge him as an individual having to do with his own personal liability. so, you know, similarly, michael cohen went to prison in part for the hush money scheme, the payment to stormy daniels. individual one was mentioned in that sdny indictment. ultimately he wasn't charged. so there is this pattern here,
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you know, the criminal law is what it is. if prosecutors can't get to him with the proof, they can't charge him. that, of course, is what they've been working on for a couple of years now so we'll have to see. >> ely, as you know, michael cohen has said nothing happened at the trump organization that donald trump didn't know about. he has basically testified to that. but you've made the point you have to be able to actually connect the dots. >> yeah. as a prosecutor, alisyn, you cannot stand up in front of a jury and say, come on, folks, he must have known, he had to know. that's what the burden of proof is about, that's what proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt is about. that's not enough. you need specific proof. you need a document, you need a witness who can say, he knew about this, he was part of it. also, speaking of michael cohen, alisyn, i think it is an appropriate occasion in thinking about donald trump's sort of lack of accountability to think of all of the people around donald trump who have been criminally charged, in some cases convicted, gone to prison. we have michael cohen, paul manafort, roger stone, michael flynn, steve bannon, on down the
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line, and now you add allen weisselberg to that list. it is really remarkable to see how many people around donald trump have taken falls, yet he has not yet. >> i mean, abby, that's why people think donald trump has been teflon, he has been able to insulate himself. how closely do you think that people on capitol hill are watching what is going on right now in this courtroom in new york? >> you know, first of all i think on the democratic side there's been a longstanding interest in trump's tax returns, in understanding where his money is coming from, who he owes debts to. democrats are particularly interested in that. on the republican side though, i do have to wonder, alisyn, how many of them really care about any of this. i think they have really turned a blind eye to all of the controversy surrounding trump including anything that has to do with his businesses. i have a lot of questions about
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whether most, you know, die-hard republicans, which in the house is probably more than two-thirds of them, in the senate is probably, you know, a similar number, whether they care at all how this case proceeds. i think many of them are where the gop base is, which is in a place where they believe that all of these investigations are politically motivated. they believe that there is, you know, as trump likes to say a witch hunt against trump, and they don't want to hear about it. so there is, from a political perspective, i think a limit to the degree to which this will erode trump's support, at least among republicans. >> let's bring in now tristan snell, the former assistant attorney general for new york state. he sued trump university in that capacity. tristan, great to have you here. what is your take as you wait and watch with us of what is happening inside that courtroom?
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>> well, i think that, you know, it is going to be interesting to see how all of this unfolds. we are going to be seeing the unsealed indictments and devouring all of those coming up here. i think one of the main things i keep focusing on is that this is like -- this is not the main event. a lot of people are getting, you know, really thinking -- not to minimize it, but this is not the main event. we're not going the see a whole lot of things about donald trump today, i think as a number of other folks have said. i don't think that's what we're going to hear about. i don't think that's what we're going to be reading about. i think that we're going to be hearing about the very limited allegations against these folks with regard to taxable benefits. it is going to be possibly somewhat dry. i think a lot of people are going to come out of this being like, is this all they've got. the answer is it is definitely all they've got. this is not even -- this is not the main event. it is not the opening act to the main event. it is the opener to the opener. >> but, tristan, what is the main event?
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>> the main event really has to do with the misrepresentations that trump org allegedly made, both to tax authorities, undervaluing the value of the trump properties, and then going to lenders and insurers with a much, much, much higher valuation in order to get larger lines of credit. that is the main event here. that's the big thing that they're working on actually getting an indictment for and then pushing forward with. this effort with regard to weisselberg and other individuals with the trump organization is all about building up to that larger case that they have been working on. why have they been spending all of this time on this? and they went to the supreme court to get access to the tax records and all of the back-ups to the tax records, it is not the tax records, it is the backups to those records, all of the bank records, all of the internal e-mails, internal spread sheets.
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i can boil it down. they basically manipulated the numbers to make it look like these properties were worth less to the tax authorities, worth more to the lenders, and that was fraud, both on the lenders and on the tax authorities. it is potentially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fraud. >> ely, does that play into what you are talking about, that if they're pulling the thread today that that's the main event that it leads to? >> that's clearly the goal, alisyn. the question is will they get there, and it is clear to me that their strategy is to try to pressure and flip allen weisselberg. prosecutors have these conversations all the time. jen rogers and i have had this conversation back at sdny more times than i can count. you look at an organization like this and assess and you say, who is vulnerable, who might flip and who has the best information that we can use, and then you single out that person sometimes as we're seeing here. you bring whatever charge you can against them and you hope it is enough to flip them. that appears to be what is happening here. the big question is if
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weisselberg flips or if he doesn't, are they going to be able to get to that main event tristan is talking about. we don't know that yet. >> stand by. we do have more details of what is going on inside the courtroom from our correspondent, paula reid. so let me bring her in. paula, what have you learned from what is happening inside? >> reporter: it is really interesting hearing all of the details coming out of the courtroom. the first thing that really struck me, alisyn, is the fact weisselberg entered the courtroom with his hands cuffed. just remember at the center of these allegations they're tax crimes, not a violent offense. they actually took the cuffs off as he sat down at the defense table and we're getting more information about the allegations. that's what we talked about earlier, we would be watching for. here prosecutors are alleging a 15-year tax scheme. these charges include 15 felony counts including a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larsenie and falsifying tax records. now, they are alleging weisselberg avoided taxes on $1.7 million in income.
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earlier when we were talking about really what is at the core of this case is this allegation that employees at the trump organization, including mr. weisselberg, received perks. but, again, this wasn't free coffee. this wasn't just car service. this was allegedly free apartments, school tuition, free cars. those are the kinds of benefits that could add up to tens, hundreds, here over a million dollars. so that's going to be the crux of this case. these are significant allegations, and it will be most interesting to see when mr. weisselberg and his attorneys sit down later today or tomorrow and assess this evidence if this is enough to change his mind on cooperating with prosecutors. >> so, one more time, can you spell it out again? that what they spelled out in court was more than just perks, i mean they went into what sounds like i guess bigger things unless it all falls under the umbrella of perks. just give us that litany again.
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sorry, paula. sorry, paula. can you hear me? >> reporter: now i can hear you, alisyn. sorry. >> so sorry. can you give me that litany again of what they just spelled out in court? because it sounded like it was bigger than just perks. you were talking about grand larceny and you were talking about tax fraud. can you spell out the laundry list again? >> reporter: exactly. this is quite extensive, alisyn. there have been questions, i heard you and the panel talking about will this be the big event. these are significant charges. they're alleged a 15-year-long tax fraud scheme. they're alleging that for 15 years the trump organization and/or mr. weisselberg were trying to avoid paying taxes, specifically when it comes to mr. weisselberg they're alleging that he tried to avoid paying taxes on $1.7 million in income. so they're alleging that he received some of these extra benefits, not his direct paycheck, but received income in other ways and didn't properly
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report it for tax purposes. so when it comes to not paying on $1.7 million of income, that is a significant charge. again, what will be interesting to see is if this evidence, now that it has been revealed, is enough to change his mind, if he will now be willing to cooperate with prosecutors against his former boss. >> okay. paula, thank you very much. let me bring in our analysts again. we are joined again by laura, ely, abby and jen rogers. laura, tell me what you just heard there from paula. >> wow. when she said a 15-year scheme, that in my mind said for every year that you fail to pay taxes it represents a separate count, which means that you have -- i think it is a minimum, depending on the amount, of about seven years per count if i'm not mistaken under new york law. you add that up and you are talking about a very significant prospective sentence. of course, it is very rare that someone would get the maximum if convicted on all of those
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counts, but we're not talking about small potatoes here. what is unsurprising is that this indictment did not simply rely on statements about fringe benefits. it was far more expansive, filing fraudulent documents, other aspects that paula laid out for us. but, again, it goes to the heart of what was the nature of the position of allen weisselberg, what was he in a position to know, to do, who was he acting on behalf of. those are the kinds of questions that will now come up. we know the prospective amount of jail time he is facing. now the question will be, look, are you going to be the only person to take the fall for conduct that inured to the benefit of more than one person, inured to potentially the company and those who were employees as well. that's a question for this particular now-named defendant, the only one we know of right now who is facing, what, 15 different counts times seven years. you do the math. at the prospective, 105-plus
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years. we are nowhere near that, but imagine what the weight of that must feel like to somebody who has never even been arrested, has had this very cushy job all this time and has believed that he had the ear of the former president of the united states and his father before that. we're talking about an extraordinary amount of charges and time facing this particular person. >> jen, i would like to get your take. so as we were just spelling out with laura, a 15-year tax scheme including 15 felony counts, a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying business records. prosecutors allege he evaded taxes on $1.7 million worth of income. is this what you were expecting? is it bigger? >> it is bigger than i was expecting. i was expecting it to be limited to the fringe income, fringe benefit scheme. i will say while laura is exactly right when you look at the worst case scenario, the statutory maximum, it looks very
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high and weisselberg will be looking at that number with wide eyes presumably as he talks it over with his lawyers. but remember that you really only get hit for the amount of loss to the state. so $1.7 million in income on which you avoided taxes, the new york state tax rate is around 8%. so you are not talking about $1.7 million of fraud. you are talking about 8% of that $1.7 million approximately. so when they really think about the consequences, they'll be talking through not really the statutory maximum but more what he really will be facing, and that depends in this case on the actual tax loss amount. >> okay. that's helpful. ely, your take when you hear .? >> the $1.7 figure jumped out at me. that's a big number. what we have to see is how they break it down year by year over the 15 years, because that's what will determine what maximum p punishment weisselberg is looking at. as jen says, we have to know is it the amount of fraud or the total amount of income. there's a big difference of
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that. that should become clear when we see the indictment. >> ely, are they sort of throwing the kitchen sink at this? are these more different kinds of charges than you were expecting or what you expected? >> it sounds to me like they're charging essentially the tax fraud under various different laws, under various different statutes. there are different ways you can charge it. you can charge it as tax fraud, you can charge it as a larceny, you can charge it as falsifying records, meaning falsifying your tax returns. prosecutors do try to do that sometimes. they try to charge the conduct using as many different statutes as they can to cover all of the bases. that's what it sounds like to me pending the arrival of the actual indictment itself. >> laura, we have just been told allen weisselberg as expected has pled not guilty. obviously we expected that. so just take us inside. what is happening in the court right now? >> well, now that he's expectedly and we assumed he would plead not guilty to these charges, there will be discussions about whether he will be released on what is called his own personal
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recognizance, meaning he is under an honor system of sorts to return to court for any future court dates, any future hearings. naturally, if there were to be a trial, he would appear for that as well. they're going to look at the idea of his conditions of release, whether the court will allow him to return home, and i would suspect given this is a nonviolent offense, which is normally a key determining factor in terms of whether someone poses a threat to the public's safety, that's normally what, you know, rules the day for judges. i would expect based on his lack of a criminal record and the nature of these crimes that he would be able to return home with some form of supervision or surveillance. but this is a really, as ely said earlier, this gets very real. when you walk through the door in handcuffs to the court, it is not because it was your preference, and the judge is now looking at him as he would with any other person who has been charged by prosecutors as somebody who certainly has a presumption of innocence, absolutely but also is now
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under -- within this justice system and who will have to respond and conduct himself accordingly. i bet right now they're talking about what are the parameters for him to be released, what can't he do, where will his documents, his electronic equipment go, who will be able to view it, what liberty he will have pending trial. >> we have a little bit more, we have a few more details. allen weisselberg and the trump organization and trump payroll office have all pled not guilty. here is -- these are live pictures. this means allen weisselberg is leaving the courtroom or is this from earlier? he is leaving now. allen weisselberg is leaving the courtroom now. ely, he's not handcuffed this time, is he? >> right. so he has clearly been released as laura coates just said. we will have to figure out what the terms of that release are. has he been released on his own recognizance which means we trust you to come back, has there been a bail condition, will he be under house arrest,
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something like that. these proceedings are quick. you are advised of your rights, you plead not guilty and he walk out. >> and he goes home? >> he will go home. the question is that he may be confined to his home. sometimes when someone is released like this the judge will say you can't leave your home or you can't leave the state or you need special permission or you have a curfew. those details we will get soon. >> jennifer, what happens with the investigation? what happens with allen weisselberg's cooperation or lack thereof now? >> the investigation will continue certainly. i mean allen weisselberg is now starting this litigation process, so he will have a status conference. you know, his case will proceed, but he and his lawyers will certainly be talking. this was clearly this last-ditch effort by prosecutors to bring him into the fold to make him a cooperator, and that's the decision that's facing them now. >> and do you think, jen, that something changes now? i mean what we had heard was that allen weisselberg had not been cooperating with investigators and with prosecutors, but i know that things can change after you are
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indicted. in your experience do things move faster now? >> you know, it is really hard to say. i think in cases like this in white collar cases, the defendant and his lawyers are often meeting and speaking with prosecutors all along about what the charges are going to be. they will have told him in advance what he is facing, so it won't be a surprise to him. it is not like he walked into court this morning and learned he was being charged with much more than he anticipated. so if he changes his mind, it is really from the kind of thought process that ely and laura were talking about, the kind of cold, hard reality of being put in handcuffs, of going to the court, looking at that judge and thinking about whether you're really going to do this time or whether you're going to flip. so it is kind of that visceral emotional reaction as opposed to learning new facts, but that can be an important, meaningful reaction for people. i don't know. we will just have to see. >> we're watching allen weisselberg walk out of court right now. we assume with his attorneys
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there. we also understand that the trump organization lawyers are there. it looks like he is getting into a suburban of some kind and going to drive away. we have some new details we are just getting in though about what happened in the courtroom. so prosecutors said that weisselberg attempted to conceal his participation in the scheme with the knowledge of the company. quote, even now there's been no attempt to impose discipline on members of the company, manhattan prosecutor carrie dunn said, there is no clearer example of a company that should be held responsible. prosecutors asked for weisselberg's passport to be taken, suggesting that he may be a flight risk, saying he has been and will remain cfo of this international company. there is, quote, ample record of travel by private jet, ample means to support himself out of our jurisdiction. ely, your take on that?
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>> one of the things judges think about when letting someone out on bail like weisselberg is, is he a flight risk, could he become a fugitive. it is standard to seize someone's passport. it is interesting that the judge found he is a person of means, a person that could take off. as a statement by the prosecutor, that's my question for prosecutors. i mean if they say it went beyond allen weisselberg and other people at the organization didn't do anything to stop it and were sort of complicit in this, okay, then why are we only challenging or charging allen weisselberg at this stage? i think that's the challenge that prosecutors face going forward, seeking real accountability within the truck organ trump organization and not just a paper indictment of the company itself. >> just to recap for everyone. tristan, i know you are joining us now and i want to get your take if it is what you are expecting. we found out prosecutors described a 15-year tax scheme -- well, the charges include 15 felony counts including a scheme to defraud, including conspiracy, grand larceny and falsifying business records.
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prosecutors allege that weisselberg evaded taxes on $1.7 million of income. is this what you expected? >> this is more than i expected. it goes on for a longer period of time. i think the key thing to look for here is -- and we got a little bit of color about it with some of the things that were said in court, is the degree to which they went out of their way to falsify things and to mask it. i think that's really key, because it is one thing to say, hey, you messed up, you should have put all of this on your taxes, you didn't, you owe all of this money, you owe penalties, et cetera. it is a different thing entirely to say, you purposefully, intentionally, knowingly, some combination of those things, went out of your way to mask this and that this was a systemic problem at the company. that's a bigger deal. it also is the tip of the much larger iceberg to say, let's just sum this all up with what today means and what this means with all of the other parts of
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this investigation that they're allegedly cooking the books and that they've been doing it for decades, and that weisselberg -- why is weisselberg the one that's there and the other guys aren't? because he was the boss. he's the cfo. he's the one in charge of the books. and then the boss's boss is the fact that allegedly he was going into talk to trump every single day, that they were talking constantly, and how much of this did trump know and when did he know it. >> yeah, tristan, pardon me. >> that's the part that's going to happen next as we try to dig this out. >> yes, let me interrupt you for a second. one of the attorneys is speaking. we think this is for the trump organization. >> -- complains, well, this case is setting that precedent. so we have looked at this so carefully. these cases are always resolved in a civil context. the irs has never made a case like this. we cannot find where the irs has ever made a case like this, and we're all aware, all of you and all of us are aware of the very
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significant financial crimes that have occurred by large financial institutions where this office did not take them on, did not prosecute them, going back to 2008, the financial collapse of the united states. many of the firms that were involved in those events are located in manhattan. we did not see this office go after those firms and drag them into court, those companies into court, and we're talking about a trillion dollars in lost value to homeowners across the united states. so just to -- those are my thoughts, and i think that it is an improper precedent. i think the office knows this. i'm not saying anything to you all that they are not aware of, but i believe the political forces driving today's events are just that. it is politically driven. notwithstanding the statements by my colleague at the da's
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office in court today. >> $1.7 million, i know he's not your client, but that's a lot of money. what would mr. trump have to say about that? >> the allegations in the indictment are just that. they are allegations. they have to be proven. this is -- these kinds of cases typically are resolved in the civil context. why? because the law on compensation, on fringe benefits is murky. it is difficult. it is complex. you can have experts disagree. so these charges are going to be vigorously contested and they're going to be vigorously contested by people who are experts in the field and know this law very, very well. >> reporter: how concerned is mr. trump about personal -- as they say it could be the beginning of a more lengthy and more thorough prosecution? >> the district attorney can say and announce whatever they would
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like to say and announce. we have no concerns going [ inaudible question ] >> the indictment alleges that that amount of money was from 2005 into 2016 or 2017. but again, the question is what is it about? it's about apartments. it's a something a corporate apartment. it is something, a properly -- an expense of the company. these were complex questions. never charged in a criminal case. and they shouldn't have been here, quite frankly. [ inaudible question ] >> all civil cases -- i've been a lawyer a long time. my wonderful colleague has been a lawyer a long time. people get into a room, they talk about it, often they
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resolve things in all civil cases. what can i say? your own human experience tells you the answer to those questions. >> settlement would require an admission of wrongdoing? >> all i can tell you is all of our common experience would tell you that civil cases, people usually get in a room, they figure out what the issues are and they resolve them. that's what happens. >> this could be very damaging to the trump organization itself. >> the company is very, very optimistic that -- and we're certainly hopeful that there will not be significant effects. i do remind you all that there are large financial institutions in new york city, very well known financial institutions that are the subject of criminal prosecutions and are regulated
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entities. we're talking banks, we're talking large financial institutions, and they've all survived very, very well. what i would tell you all and something that isn't reported is that what is the company? the company is about 3500 employees world wide. many of those are in the united states at these properties and hotels and golf clubs. i visited some of those. the people that are employed are waiters and they are bellmen and busboys and they clean the rooms and they fix the meals and they are maintenance people and they take care of the grounds and they are people from all walks of life, of every country on the planet and they are good, hard working people. so those are the people that really are behind this company. you all should know that.
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[ inaudible question ] >> i would answer that by saying that certainly given the nature and the unprecedented nature of these charges, that's the reason they were brought, okay? if the name of the company was something else, i don't think these charges would have been brought. in fact, i am fairly certain they would not have been brought if the name was a different name. [ inaudible question ] >> no. the answer is no. i'm going to speak to what we are talking about today. i'm finished. i appreciate you all, but that's what i have to take about this afternoon. thank you.
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futerfas . >> the district attorney's office brought a joint prosecution here because they dislike donald trump politically. they subpoenaed millions of documents from him personally and pressured witnesses so that those witnesses, trying to make those witnesses tell them things that donald trump that they wanted to hear that donald trump had done things criminally, which the witnesses did not do because they could
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the comment that is the attorney general has repeatedly made, she campaigned on a promise that she would get donald trump. she repeatedly said she would use all areas of the law to get donald trump and this is a joint prosecution. while she was attorney general and while president trump was in office, she sued him 70 times using new york taxpayer money. she called him an illegitimate president repeatedly. so this is a person who now with the d.a.'s office have teamed up together to bring this unprecedented prosecution. the d.a.'s office may say it's not unprecedented, but they cannot point to any case where a corporation has been prosecuted based on a few individuals in
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the corporation who allegedly on their personal tax return made a mistake or did not pick up fringe benefits on their personal tax return. we do not believe there is any such case that they have been able to find. you cannot say, like the d.a.'s office said in court, oh, we brought the case because he didn't cooperate with us. that's not how it works. you bring the case on principles of liability and when a corporation has done massive wrongdoing. that's what the d.a.'s office guidelines said and they disregarded those guidelines to bring a case against a trump company. never happened before. we will win this case, but this case should have never been brought. it is a political prosecution.
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political prosecutions where people are targeted criminally because the prosecutors disagree with their political beliefs happen in corrupt companies. it does not happen in america. it's un-american. it should not happen here in new york city, the greatest city in the greatest democracy in the world. should not have occurred and it is a sad day in new york that this occurred. thank you. i'm not answering any questions. thank you. >> we're been listening to the trump companies make their case of how they think this never should have been brought in criminal court. they said most of this is in a civil context. let's get to cnn reporter inside the courtroom. tell us what you learned in there. >> reporter: this is one of the most dramatic court appearances i've been in in a long time. alan weisselberg was escorted into the courtroom with his
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hands cuffed behind him and was unc uncuffed when he sat down at the defense table. he pleaded not guilty. we did hear a little bit more about the scheme. a 15-year tax scheme with 15 felony counts brought against the defendants, scheme to defraud, grand larceny, tax fraud, falsifying business records. one of the allegations is alan weisselberg did not pay taxes on $1.7 million beginning in 2005. according to prosecutors, one way he did not pay taxes is he concealed that he was a new york city resident. another allegation is he lived rent free in an apartment provided in new york city by the trump organization. they said the scheme also involved secret pay raises. one of the prosecuted called it a sweeping and audacious illegal payment scheme.
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quite a contrast to what you just heard from lawyers for weisselberg and for the trump organization where they are making this into a political case. one of the attorneys, the general counsel for the district attorney's office said in court that this is not about politics. politics has no role in the grand jury and it played no role here. but they also said this was a scheme that weisselberg was involved with that was known by the company at the top of the company. one of the big questions people have is why was the company indicted in this. they addressed that by saying the company did not cooperate. it took them to court for nearly two years fighting over the tax returns and did not allow any employees to cooperate or testify except when they were called before the grand jury. the trump organization's lawyer saying this was about politics and should have been handled civilly and the d.a. saying this
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was a 15-year scheme to defraud. and weisselberg himself, they're saying 1$1.3 million he didn't pay taxes on. >> let's discuss all of this with donald trump's former personal attorney michael cohen who has been listening in to all of these developments. michael, great to see you. your reaction to what you've heard? >> there's nothing that has been said that i couldn't have scripted out in advance of the trump organization's counsel, whether it was alan or the other attorney. he's been saying this witch hunt language since he took office. no one is allowed to investigate donald unless donald tells you he's allowed to be


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