No matter the charge, the defense is the same: Donald Trump is the victim of a vicious political vendetta.
By a quirk of fate, two of the most troublesome threats to the ex-President’s political viability and business legend unfolded almost simultaneously Thursday in two cities he once dominated. And he responded the way he always does, by going on the attack.
In New York City, prosecutors arraigned Trump’s financial right-hand man, Allen Weisselberg, on charges including grand larceny and tax fraud. And the Trump Organization itself was accused of a fraudulent multi-year scheme to avoid due taxes.
Back in Washington, meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named those who will serve on a select committee on the January 6 US Capitol insurrection, which was incited by Trump in a bid to overturn his election defeat. In a poke in the eye to the former President, they include one of his mortal enemies, Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans to speak truth to his abuses of power surrounding last year’s election.
No recent former President has faced the kind of threat to his legacy, reputation and potentially even his fortune now being encountered by Trump. And the ferocity of his defense — faithful to his mantra of never giving an inch to his adversaries — suggests he plans to respond with the kind of all-consuming assault on America’s psyche that unfolded during his presidency.
The line from Trump world is that the former President is being targeted not for what he did but for who he is, a construct that has carried him through the Russia probe, two impeachments and numerous other political, personal and business scrapes.
“If the name of the company was something else, I don’t think these charges would have been brought,” said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for the Trump Organization.
The Trump Organization legal team largely avoided a point-by-point rebuttal of 15 grand jury counts alleging that Weisselberg — the organization’s chief financial officer — evaded taxes on $1.7 million in income and falsified documents in a 15-year scheme. The indictment said the activity allegedly involved other unnamed executives in a firm in which the Trump family itself holds all the top roles. Weisselberg and the Trump Organization both pleaded not guilty. The former President was not personally charged.
Another Trump organization attorney, Susan Necheles, was even more aggressive than Futerfas in alleging a corrupt political conspiracy against Trump.
“We will win this case, but this case should have never been brought,” Necheles told reporters outside the courtroom. “This is a political prosecution.”
Earlier, prosecutor Carey Dunne anticipated the counterattack that the case was rooted in partisan distaste for the former President.
“Politics has no role in the grand jury chamber, and I can assure your honor that it played no role here,” Dunne told the judge, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.