Trump Organization found guilty of tax fraud

A New York jury has found the Trump Organization guilty of 17 counts of criminal tax fraud for a scheme top executives used to dodge personal income taxes. The verdict comes as a separate investigation into the former president's illegitimate attempts to remain in power appears to be entering a new phase. Investigative journalist Andrea Bernstein joins John Yang to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A New York jury has found the Trump Organization guilty of 17 counts of criminal tax fraud for a scheme top executives used to dodge personal income taxes.

    As John Yang reports, the verdict comes as a separate investigation into the former president's illegitimate attempts to remain in power appears to be entering a new phase.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, officials in Wisconsin and Arizona say they have received subpoenas from the Justice Department seeking potential communications they may have had with Trump, his campaign and his aides as they tried to reverse the results of the 2020 election.

    The subpoenas that are part of the investigation headed by special counsel Jack Smith were first reported by The Washington Post, which said Michigan officials were also subpoenaed.

    And in another development today, the chairman of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol said the panel will make criminal referrals to the Justice Department based on its findings.

    Investigative journalist and author Andrea Bernstein is part of the ProPublica team covering democracy. She also has been covering the Trump Organization trial for NPR.

    Andrea, today's guilty verdict in that trial, what was it exactly that the Trump Organization was accused of doing?

  • Andrea Bernstein, ProPublica:

    The two corporate entities, two Trump corporate entities, were charged with and tried for scheme to defraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records, for essentially engaging in a long-running scheme whereby top executives would be compensated with things like luxury apartments, Mercedes-Benzes, electronics, furniture, private school tuition, all of which they did not declare on their personal taxes, and which allowed them and the company to save money.

    And what the jury found is that the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation were criminally liable, putting us in this novel situation where someone who was president, who wants to be president again has his company convicted of crimes.

  • John Yang:

    Is the — is former President Trump involved at all? Is he affected at all by this personally?

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    So he's not personally charged. Of course, his company is his eponymous company.

    It could suffer some kinds of business consequences. But I think it's more a sort of — sort of atmospheric or psychic consequence for the former president, that here is somebody who has claimed he's done nothing wrong, who still claims he has done nothing wrong, whose company was found guilty by a Manhattan jury of 17 counts of cheating the government that he headed, including while he was the head of it.

  • John Yang:

    Atmospheric or sort of consequences, but it also comes on a day when we learned about some concrete actions by the Justice Department.

    What's the significance of these subpoenas from the special counsel?

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    Right. So, here we are in a situation where the Justice Department seems to be aggressively looking into criminality involving Trump's attempts to avoid the peaceful transfer of power, and where the January 6 Committee says, yes, they may have found some criminal elements and schemes that they want the Justice Department to look on.

    So here we are in a situation where it's not a month since former President Trump declared his intention to run for a third time, and he is facing criminal consequences for his business and potentially for his presidency as well.

  • John Yang:

    There was some speculation when Jack Smith was named special counsel that this would delay the investigation, that it would take him time to get up to speed, but he's — he seems to be acting fairly quickly.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    Yes, I mean, they — the Justice Department did say that he would take over and continue with the existing investigation. And that does seem to be happening.

    I mean, I think what the sort of overall picture is today is, here is a former president whose company has been convicted of a crime, who is facing more charges, potentially personally, from the Justice Department of the government that he once headed. That is an extraordinary and unprecedented situation in American history.

  • John Yang:

    And the chairman of the January 6 Committee said they haven't quite decided on the details of what the referral will be.

    But what's the range of possibilities? What might they be referring to the Justice Department?

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    Well, they referred several times during their hearings to a finding by a federal court judge that the president was more likely than not, the president at the time, Trump, to have violated various statutes in regards to his attempt to hold onto power when it was clear that he had no further recourse.

    And they have said that over and over again. Chairman Bennie Thompson has said it. Vice Chairperson of the Committee Liz Cheney has said it. So, clearly, that is at the top of the mind, but we won't know until we see their report, which will be coming out sometime later this month, and until they made a final decision whether to refer it.

    Now, of course, the Justice Department has its own investigation and can look at their materials. So it may not have a big effect. But, again, it's sort of a sense of accumulation of these charges of fraud all around that Trump is now facing.

  • John Yang:

    Andrea Bernstein, thank you very much.

  • Andrea Bernstein:

    Thank you.

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