Did Manhattan prosecutors throw in the towel in Weisselberg plea?

Source: Hot Air

Normally, a plea deal signals progress in a larger investigation — a sign that pressure has convinced someone to flip on a larger target. Last night’s news out of New York suggests that someone’s given up — but it’s not the defendant. Longtime Trump Organization senior exec Allan Weisselberg will take a plea deal that will land him a few weeks in prison, but won’t get his cooperation in Manhattan’s investigation of Donald Trump:

A senior executive at Donald J. Trump’s family business who was charged with participating in a yearslong tax scheme is nearing a deal with Manhattan prosecutors but will not cooperate with a broader investigation into Mr. Trump, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

If it becomes final, a plea deal for the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, would bring prosecutors no closer to indicting the former president but would nonetheless brand one of his most trusted lieutenants a felon.

On Monday, Mr. Weisselberg’s lawyers and prosecutors met with the judge overseeing the case, according to a court database. The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday, a possible indication that a deal has been reached and a plea could be entered then.

While Mr. Weisselberg, 75, is facing financial penalties as well as up to 15 years in prison if convicted by a jury, a plea deal would avoid a high-profile trial and most likely would spare him a lengthy sentence. Two people with knowledge of the matter said that Mr. Weisselberg was expected to receive a five-month jail sentence. With time credited for good behavior, he is likely to serve about 100 days.

This looks like an end to the attempts by the Manhattan DA’s office to prosecute Trump for real-estate and/or banking fraud. That effort had begun throwing wheels a few months ago. In February, the prosecutors quarterbacking the Trump probe abruptly resigned when new DA Alvin Bragg questioned whether they had developed any real case against Trump, with our without Weisselberg.

That created a storm of anger against Bragg, as critics painted it as a betrayal of the progressive activist goals on which Bragg ran. However, a grand jury bolstered Bragg’s reservations in April when they adjourned without any indictments against Trump. Jazz noted a Washington Post analysis that concluded that the big investigation was “fizzling out”:

Still, the expiration of the grand jury — and the departure in February of two senior prosecutors who said Bragg was stalling the inquiry — makes any potential indictment of Trump seem unlikely, legal observers have said. By the time Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne quit, the grand jury had been inactive for weeks, with jurors being told to stay home, a person with knowledge of the issue previously said.

Lawyers in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is a partner in the probe, are skeptical that any criminal case will be brought, people familiar with the situation said. They also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. A spokeswoman for James said the investigation continues. …

People familiar with Bragg’s thinking said his hesitation in going forward is due in large part to his lack of faith in Cohen, a former Trump attorney and a convicted felon. Cohen wrote a book about his life as a Trump crony, and frequently criticizes the ex-president. He has made clear that he is willing to testify about how business was done at the Trump Organization if a case is brought.

Letting Weisselberg off the hook with just a few weeks in jail makes it clear that Bragg has no interest in pursuing this tax/bank fraud thread any further. They didn’t get Weisselberg to flip, and apparently they can’t keep a grand jury’s interest with the evidence they have without Trump’s accountant.

James’ civil probe is continuing, of course, and that has different rules and standards of proof. A court forced Trump into a deposition last week, in which the former president invoked the Fifth Amendment repeatedly rather than answer questions about his businesses. That may come back to haunt Trump in a presidential run, assuming he launches one, but it won’t land him in jail as it otherwise might have if Trump provided Bragg with a new reason to seat another grand jury. The risks that Trump runs with James is political and financial, not criminal. And at least in Manhattan, it looks like that’s all the exposure that Trump has now.