Donald Trump made a risky gamble on a full acquittal of tax fraud charges for two companies he operated, but the laws they're accused of breaking aren't strong enough to ruin him financially.
A person familiar with the decision told Bloomberg the former president unilaterally refused to allow Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp., which are subsidiaries of his Trump Organization, to strike plea agreements with prosecutors and instead risked the possibility of a conviction on the strongest charges that prosecutors could bring.
“This is no small potatoes prosecution,” said Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace University’s law school. “The parent company, as a felon, could be barred from having contracts with government agencies, and it could make it more difficult to do business with banks. This is a big deal."
By opting for a trial, Trump also risked exposing the inner workings of his family-owned business in open court, but the possibility a triumphant acquittal was too much for him to resist.
If the jury does find the companies guilty, which could result in only a $1.6 million penalty, the Trump Organization is likely to argue that it shouldn't be held criminally liable for actions by two subsidiaries, and the defense has argued that star witness Allen Weisselberg, the company's longtime accountant who pleaded guilty to tax fraud, went rogue and enjoyed perks that didn't benefit the business.
“It’s strengthening his brand to go through with the trial -- win, lose or draw,” said branding expert Allen Adamson. “There’s no downside to fighting. Even if he loses, he pays a small fine, versus being put in an orange jumpsuit.”
"This is not even a blip," he added.