A Philadelphia-based attorney known for representing former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial has joined the defense team in a criminal case against the Trump Organization led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Michael van der Veen will defend the organization in the case. The company announced van der Veen’s participation in a post on its website over the weekend, saying the Trump Organization had filed an entry of his appearance in the case. Van der Veen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors allege the company participated in a 15-year tax evasion scheme. The scheme allowed the organization’s leaders to avoid paying federal, state and municipal taxes on unreported income, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said in an August press release.
The case is expected to go to trial next month. Here’s what you need to know:
Van der Veen is a local attorney and founder of the law firm van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, which has its Philadelphia office at 12th and Spruce Streets in downtown. But he is perhaps best known as a defense attorney in Trump’s second impeachment trial in February.
In that proceeding, van der Veen led Trump’s legal team, successfully defending the former president against allegations that he encouraged his supporters to attack the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021. The Senate voted 57 against 43 to condemn Trump, below the required 67 votes are necessary.
Van der Veen and fellow local attorneys Bruce L. Castor Jr. and William J. Brennan have continued to work with the Trump Organization in various capacities since the impeachment trial. When reached by phone, Brennan confirmed he was also working on the case. Castor’s role remains unclear.
Van der Veen made headlines in the case nationally, but particularly in Philadelphia for a courtroom gaffe in which he mispronounced the city’s name. In that incident, he argued that depositions shouldn’t be taken over Zoom, but rather “in my office in Philadelphia.” The suggestion that he would drop off around 100 people in his office caused senators in the room to laugh and went viral online.
“I don’t know how many civilian lawyers are here, but that’s how it works,” he said at the time. “I don’t know why you’re laughing. It is a civil procedure. That’s how lawyers do it. »
Van der Veen was also harassed for his role in the case. During impeachment proceedings, vandals smashed windows and spray-painted the word “traitor” on the driveway of his suburban Philadelphia home. Protesters also demonstrated outside his company’s downtown office.
Prosecutors allege the Trump Organization and its top executives jointly engaged in tax evasion for 15 years by underreporting their income and accepting benefits that did not appear on tax documents, The New York Times reports. As a result, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the organization defrauded federal, state and city authorities.
Van der Veen’s involvement in the lawsuit follows a guilty plea from Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg last month. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 counts related to the scheme and admitted evading tax on $1.76 million in unreported income. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement that Weisselberg’s plea deal “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity” in the case.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office added that Weisselberg admitted the alleged tax evasion scheme involved the organization withholding payroll, salary and bonus taxes for himself and other employees. As a result, the Trump Organization could have “evaded paying payroll taxes that the company was required to pay as part of employee compensation.”
Weisselberg, Bragg said, “will provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the company,” and received a five-month prison sentence and five years probation, in addition to a $1.9 million refund. taxes, penalties and interest related to the case.
Trump has not been charged in the case, reports the Times. According to Reuters, the Trump Organization, which has pleaded not guilty, could face fines and other penalties if found guilty in the case.
The case is currently set to go to trial on October 24.
Days before van der Veen joined the case, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed civil lawsuits against Trump, the Trump Organization and three of his children. The case alleges decades of “widespread fraudulent financial practices” and targets $250 million in profits and a five-year ban on real estate transactions, Politico reports.
Van der Veen slammed James in a statement, saying she was making a “blatant attempt to poison the jury” in the criminal case by announcing civil proceedings now.
“These criminal and civil lawsuits are an attack not only on the Trump Organization, but also on American business itself,” van der Veen said. “Every family business and every family-run shop – the backbone of our economy and our country – should understand that progressive prosecutors are weaponizing record-keeping laws as a means to achieve the goals of redistributing wealth in hugely and grossly assessing disproportionate fines, fees and penalties to businesses. My client is innocent and we look forward to defending his innocence in court.