Donald Trump is formally charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records following an investigation into secret payments to three people, including a porn actress.
The former US president has pleaded not guilty.
THE prosecutors allege that Donald Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York corporate records to conceal criminal conduct that contained information detrimental to voters during the 2016 presidential election.”
These include information about payments made to porn star Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal and an ex-doorman claiming his former Trump Tower boss had a child out of wedlock with a housekeeper.
Donald Trump is also threatened on other matters — for allegedly hiding classified government documents on his property in Florida, for trying to manipulate the vote in Georgia after the 2020 presidential election and for encouraging the insurgency of the January 6, 2021.
But now that formal charges have been filed in New York, prosecutors are following the accounting trail of the payment made to Stormy Daniels by the ex-president’s right-hand man, Michael Cohen, the ex-lawyer already convicted of the crime and key witness for the prosecution.
Since 2016, this payment — made just before the presidential election — has raised legal and ethical questions. Was there a violation of federal campaign finance laws, either because it was not disclosed as a campaign contribution or because campaign funds were allegedly used to pay a private matter?
In 2018, Michael Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to eight counts for which he has sentenced to three years in prison.
But given his criminal record, his word isn’t the strongest evidence. Donald Trump’s lawyers will take pleasure in attacking the credibility of a perjurer, disbarred from the bar and released from prison.
Does that mean Trump has nothing to fear? Not really. Because this time, given the nature of the charges against him, he will now have to deal with much more formidable witnesses: the accountants.
The money trail
In the 1920’s, it was a tenacious accountant who brought down gangster Al Capone. And in the 1970s, it was also in “following the money” that journalists exposed the Watergate scandal.
How can accountants decide the fate of donald trump ?
First, thanks to a demonstrable fact: the former president is known not to pay his bills. In 2016, USA Today reported that Donald Trump “has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits” regarding allegations of unpaid bills over three decades.
According to the daily, these accusations impress by their variety: a glass company, a carpet merchant, real estate agents, 48 waiters, bartenders by the dozen, small entrepreneurs and hotel staff.
More serious: Donald Trump would have defrauded “several law firms having represented him in his trials”, according to USA Today.
Further, the newspaper says that all of these allegations and court cases suggest that “either his companies have a poor track record of hiring workers and evaluating contractors, or they are not honoring their contracts.”
Even today, many bills remain unpaid — and keep piling up.
For example, some US cities — including the town of Wildwood, New Jersey — say Donald Trump still owes them nearly $2 million for rallies dating back to 2016. According Fox Businesshis social media platform, Truth Social, is also said to have ripped off a contractorwhich is a new sign of the financial disarray of this network supposed to compete with Twitter.
The check to Michael Cohen
During Donald Trump’s trial in New York, accountants will only have to ask the killing question. Given that the defendant constantly refuses to pay his bills and systematically scams those he does business with, how come he immediately sent a check for $130,000 to Cohen without even asking for a bill? detailed?
In his first public comments on the scandal in 2018, Trump had denied knowledge of payment to Stormy Daniels. Shortly after, he changed his tune by admitting to having been informed, invoking a confidentiality agreement to put an end to the “false accusations” aimed at “extorting” him.
What matters here is neither these dodges, nor even the testimony of Michael Cohen on the purpose of the payment of 130,000 dollars. What will be decisive for the case is the fact that Donald Trump did not request any proof or justification for this payment.
To rack up $130,000 in billable fees, Michael Cohen would have had to work hundreds of hours. It’s hard to believe that a notorious scavenger like Donald Trump didn’t ask any questions, or demand any details, breakdowns, or proof of a $130,000 bill and other onerous payments.
In upcoming court proceedings, accountants will raise this potentially damning question: Why did Donald Trump pay a $130,000 bill so quickly only to have it declared, in the broadest terms possible, as simple attorney’s fees?
Forget Stormy Daniels. Forget Michael Cohen. This is the question that Donald Trump does not want to answer.