The extraordinary indictment of the Trump Organization Thursday prompted an extraordinarily awful response from its sole owner and its lawyer.
Trump asserted that he can pick and choose which laws he obeys. His lawyer, Alan Futerfass, says that prosecutors should have settled the Trump Organization tax fraud allegations in secret negotiations, not with criminal charges filed in public.
What's brazen is how Trump and lawyer Futerfass reveal their support for two systems of justice, separate and unequal, with people like themselves getting special light treatment.
Pay close attention to the last words in this Trump Organization statement: "The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing."
The statement is a lie. Tax fraud cases involving unreported compensation get prosecuted.
Still, the Trump organization statement may still serve a useful purpose by awakening the public to how little prosecution there is against what the IRS says is rampant and growing tax evasion at the top of the economic ladder, which may cost the rest of us more than a trillion dollars a year.
The Trumpian assertion that prosecutors should not bring charges against thieves who steal from our governments reveals the entitled view among too many of the wealthiest and most privileged Americans. Many of them think money makes them special, so special that the criminal law shouldn't apply to them.
The 15-count indictments returned by a Manhattan grand jury are only the first in what are likely to be a series of charges. Ultimately, I anticipate that a grand jury will return a state-level racketeering enterprise indictment. That would allow a receiver to take control of the Trump Organization, ending its decades of cheating workers, vendors, governments and investors.
The richly detailed bill of particulars hints at other likely prosecutions.
Prosecutors charged Trump bagman Allen Weisselberg only after he repeatedly rejected invitations to flip on Trump and turn state's evidence. Weisselberg, the indictment says, destroyed some evidence and maintained two sets of books to hide transactions from tax collectors.
This indictment is a tool to leverage Weisselberg, to get him to realize the awful fate that awaits him if he clings to Trump.
After 48 years of doing the Trump family's dirty work, Weisselberg has become a wholly-owned psychological subsidiary of Trump's criminal mind. Breaking free would be difficult for Weisselberg, who is about to turn 74, but the prospect of dying in prison may clarify his thoughts about his moral and legal duty. Weisselberg could get 15 years, but he also might get probation.
Trump has long argued that he is above the law.
When Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was trying to get his accounting, business, and tax records, Trump fought it to the Supreme Court twice. In 2019, Trump lawyer George Consovoy told a federal judge that if Trump actually shot someone on Fifth Avenue, the NYPD could not even investigate the murder.
Years earlier Trump endorsed a "textbook" for his scam Trump University. This from Trump University Asset Protection 101: Tax and Legal Strategies of the Rich: "When you own your own business, you determine how much income tax you pay."
That's not true, but it sure tells you where Trump's thinking goes.
Contrast Trump's cavalier attitude about breaking the law with how American law enforcement and the courts treat those born into poverty who commit petty nonviolent crimes.
50 years for a Pizza Thief
Jerry Dewayne Williams—broke, hungry and turned away when he begged for food—grabbed a slice of pizza from four children in Redondo Beach, Calif. Williams got 25 years to life, though a judge let him go after five years.
And then there's Leandro Andrade, another penniless man, who stole four videos in one store and five in another. The U.S. Supreme Court held that his consecutive 25-year sentences were "not unreasonable."
Yet the Trump Organization asserts that enabling its chief finance officer to steal $880,000 from the federal, state and New York City governments shouldn't be prosecuted.
Nine bucks, nine videos, one slice of pizza for a hungry man result in life sentences or damn close, but prosecutors should look the other way or allow tax fraudsters to negotiate in secret, pay some money and go on their way? That's Trumpian chutzpah.
Victor Hugo's 19th Century novel Les Misérables about Jean Valjean, who stole bread for his starving sister and spent the next 19 years in prison, is not exactly fiction in modern-day America.
One law for peasants and another for the privileged is not in our Declaration of Independence or our Constitution. Still, it dwells in the hearts of a majority of our Supreme Court justices, as well as Donald Trump and his costly white-collar criminal defense lawyers.
Expect More Indictments
You can be sure that the finely detailed case filed Thursday is far from a comprehensive indictment of Trump Organization tax cheating.
Barbara Res, who for many years oversaw Trump construction projects, told Ari Melber on MSNBC just hours after the arraignments about dubious thousand-dollar a week expense accounts.
"The first time I started working for Trump, one of the first things I encountered was, I was checking expenses of one of our top employees, and they were ridiculous," Res said.
Res said she spoke to Trump about the inexplicable expense money only to discover he was behind it. "Trump told me to just come up with just so much, I forget the amount, a thousand dollars a week or whatever it was in expenses, maybe not that much back then, and they'll be paid. And they'll be off the books."
What Res described is tax fraud, plain and simple. And if we applied to Trump the same standards applied to Simmons, Kennard, Williams and Andrade, then Trump would have started wearing an orange jumpsuit decades ago. But we don't have equal justice for all.
Notice that Trump's statement through the Trump Organization and lawyer Futterfas's statements aren't denials of tax fraud, just assertions that to prosecute for these crimes isn't fair.