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Trump Organization Back In Court For The First Time Since July


The Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were back in court today for the first time since they were indicted in New York in July on state charges of conspiracy to avoid local, state and federal taxes. Reporter Ilya Marritz was in the courtroom and joins us now.

Hi, Ilya.


A SHAPIRO: This case is significant for many reasons. It's the first time Donald Trump's company has faced criminal charges, although Trump himself is not charged. What did we learn in court today?

MARRITZ: Quite a bit. First, some practical stuff. Judge Juan Merchan said he'll set a trial date for late August or September 2022. And he asked the attorneys to keep their calendars free. Now the substantive and strategic stuff. Right out of the gate, Allen Weisselberg's attorney, Bryan Skarlatos, put some distance between his client and the Trump Organization. In asking the judge for more time to read documents and make motions, he said Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are separate. Weisselberg is the only person here whose liberty is at stake, and he's worried that his client could become, quote, "collateral damage" in a fight between Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance Jr. and the Trump Organization.

Weisselberg is, of course, under pressure to give evidence against the Trump Organization to avoid the risk of jail time. We didn't hear anything to suggest that he's likely to flip, though. The other really key development Skarlatos pointed to here is he said his team has strong reason to believe that more indictments are coming in this case. But he did not give any details.

A SHAPIRO: Given what you know, what is that likely to mean, possible new indictments?

MARRITZ: Well, one, it's just a reminder that this is an active investigation. The Manhattan district attorney has been bringing witnesses before the grand jury. Last month, they heard from the Trump Organization's director of security, Matthew Calamari Jr., who received immunity for his testimony. Now his father, Matthew Calamari Sr., also works for the Trump Organization as chief operating officer, and the two Calamaris share a lawyer. And he, the attorney, told us in an email today that he does not expect Calamari Sr. to face any charges or to be charged with any crimes. He says there's no basis to indict him, and he is in discussions with the DA's office.

Big picture - the number of people with knowledge or control over Trump Organization financials is not large. It's a handful of trusted executives, a few outside professionals like accountants, and then there are the members of the Trump family.

A SHAPIRO: So if the trial is not likely to happen until next August or September, what did prosecutors say about where the investigation goes next?

MARRITZ: Well, it's clear they want to move quickly. Assistant district attorney Solomon Shinerock argued for a faster motion schedule. And another sign of how active this investigation is came again from Bryan Skarlatos, Weisselberg's attorney. He discussed in open court something that was revealed to him by prosecutors just a short time before that in the judge's chambers. He said there is a new tranche of materials to be reviewed, and it includes tax documents that were found, as he described it, in a coconspirator's basement. We don't know who that person is or how those papers got into or out of their basement.

A SHAPIRO: And what has the Trump Organization said today, or, for that matter, former President Trump, who, as we mentioned, is not charged in this case?

MARRITZ: Well, in court, the company's lawyer said, actually, hardly anything at all. When I spoke last week with Donald Trump's personal attorney for this matter, Ron Fischetti, he emphasized how long this has been going on. His client is affected by it, even though he hasn't been charged, and he really wants it to end. Cy Vance's probe began back in 2018. Of course, the whole thing would not have taken three-plus years to reach this point if Donald Trump hadn't gone all the way to the Supreme Court twice to block Vance's investigation, and he lost. Now here we are, looking at a trial that could begin about a year from now.

A SHAPIRO: Reporter Ilya Marritz, thanks very much.

MARRITZ: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ilya Marritz