World

Your Wednesday Briefing: Trump Organization Convicted in Tax Fraud Scheme

Donald Trump continues to face several state and federal probes stemming from conduct in his business and political lives.Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Trump Organization found guilty in tax fraud scheme

Donald Trump’s family real estate business was convicted yesterday of tax fraud and other financial crimes, a remarkable rebuke of the former president’s company and what prosecutors described as its “culture of fraud and deception.”

The conviction on all 17 counts, after more than a day of jury deliberations in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, resulted from a long-running scheme in which the Trump Organization doled out off-the-books luxury perks, like fancy apartments and luxury cars, to some executives.

While prosecutors stopped short of indicting the former president, they invoked his name throughout the monthlong trial, telling jurors that he personally paid for some of the perks and even approved a crucial aspect of the scheme.

Analysis: The conviction on charges of tax fraud, a scheme to defraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records is hardly a death sentence for the Trump Organization. The maximum penalty it faces is $1.62 million, a rounding error for Trump. Yet the verdict represents a highly public reckoning for the Trump Organization.

Fallout: The company’s conviction — coupled with the prosecution’s claim that Trump was “explicitly sanctioning tax fraud” — could reverberate through the 2024 presidential race and might lay the groundwork for a wider criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.


An image taken from state television footage of the memorial for Jiang Zemin at the Great Hall of the People.Credit…CCTV, via Associated Press

Xi projects unity at ex-leader’s funeral

During a funeral ceremony yesterday, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, heaped praise on the late former president Jiang Zemin, who died on Nov. 30. Xi delivered a 51-minute eulogy for Jiang that was full of accolades while avoiding any hints differences between the two leaders.

The event was attended by thousands of officials, soldiers and dignitaries, who sat in the audience, wearing masks — a visual reminder of the coronavirus pandemic controls that have prompted protests across China.

Background: Jiang was at times a hard-line leader, especially when he cracked down in 1999 on the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that the Chinese Communist Party saw as a threat to its power. But many in China remember him more for implementing market reforms, securing China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and tolerating more open debate than is possible now.

Analysis: The mourning implicitly signified the end of an era when Jiang and other party elders remained powerful back-room players. After Jiang relinquished his last major post in 2004, his protégés perpetuated his influence on politics. But his influence waned over the past decade, as did that of his successor, Hu Jintao. At a party congress in October, Xi swept aside Hu’s remaining protégés and installed loyalists as top leaders.

Protests: The government has begun easing some of the pandemic measures that fanned public anger, even as coronavirus infections keep rising. Beijing said yesterday that it would no longer require residents to show negative Covid test results to enter supermarkets, shopping centers, the city’s main airport and other public places.


The new laws are almost certain to revive a debate around democratic backsliding.Credit…Adek Berry/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Indonesia bans extramarital sex

Indonesia’s Parliament cleared a sweeping overhaul of the country’s criminal code, which outlaws sex outside of marriage and defamation of the president and sharply expands laws against blasphemy in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Opponents said the rules, which were approved unanimously by Parliament yesterday, posed significant risks to religious minorities by tacitly targeting critics of Islam.

The criminalization of extramarital sex also targets the L.G.B.T. community, as gay marriage is illegal in Indonesia. The new laws could also curtail freedom of expression and assembly.

Context: After the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1998, Indonesia had prided itself on becoming a thriving democracy. But more recently, conservative Islam has gained ground in the country, and now some fear its influence is growing, even as its adherents remain a minority in Parliament.

Background: In 2019, the government tried to pass a similar law, but President Joko Widodo shelved it after tens of thousands of young people protested. This time, activists said they were blindsided when lawmakers suddenly announced on Nov. 30 that they were handing a draft to Parliament to ratify.


THE LATEST NEWS

Asia Pacific

  • The Taliban said Afghan girls will be allowed to take their high school graduation exams this week, even though they have been banned from classrooms since last year, The Associated Press reports.

  • Protesters in Mongolia tried to storm the parliament building in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, on Sunday, as they demonstrated against inflation and corruption, Reuters reports.

Around the World

An image released by the administration of the Kursk region of Russia on Tuesday showed smoke rising near the Kursk airport.Credit…Russian Kursk Region Administration via AP
  • A drone attack struck near an air base in Russia, 80 miles from the Ukrainian border, a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases deep inside the country.

  • The president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, faces a third impeachment attempt in Congress, the latest crisis for the leader who rose to power by promising to address the country’s chronic inequality.

  • At the World Cup, Morocco knocked out Spain on penalty kicks, and Portugal beat Switzerland, 6-1.

Business

  • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s biggest maker of advanced computer chips, plans to unveil an ambitious $40 billion factory upgrade in Arizona.

  • A new report cites extensive links between the global auto industry and Xinjiang, where the U.S. government now presumes goods are made with forced labor.

  • Xi Jinping will travel to Saudi Arabia today, where he is expected to sign a flurry of contracts with Gulf states, highlighting Beijing’s growing clout in the region as Washington has pulled away.

Other Big Stories

  • Voters in Georgia went to the polls in the last battle of the 2022 midterms, between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.

  • The Biden administration announced on Monday that more than 100,000 Haitian migrants in the U.S. could gain permission to work and stay in the country for at least 18 months.

A Morning Read

Credit…Alamy

A new study found that curse words in several unrelated languages sound alike: They’re less likely than other words to include the consonant sounds L, R, W or Y. And more family-friendly versions of curses often have these sounds added, just like the R in “shirt” or “fork.” The finding suggests that some underlying rules may link the world’s languages.

ARTS AND IDEAS

The Christmas music game

Holiday music has long been a big business. Back in 2018, Billboard estimated it to be worth $177 million a year in the U.S. alone. But streaming has supercharged it.

In the week leading up to Christmas last year, holiday songs accounted for 10 percent of all music streams in the U.S. And on Christmas Eve, Amazon’s Alexa smart speakers received 35 million voice requests around the world for seasonal music.

This week, streaming helped send Mariah Carey’s 28-year-old “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, topped only by Taylor Swift’s latest, “Anti-Hero.” “Getting on key algorithmic stations is really everything,” said Andrew Woloz of the music company Concord. Carey’s smash has appeared on TikTok 12 million times and racked up more than 1.2 billion streams on Spotify.

In an interview with my colleague Ben Sisario, David Foster, a golden-touch producer who has worked on hit Christmas albums, relayed three rules of the Christmas music game.

No. 1: The public prefers the old classics and isn’t too interested in new songs.

No. 2: Singers shouldn’t wander too far from the melody.

No. 3: “You can’t be too corny at Christmas. You totally get a free pass.”

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

Credit…Joe Lingeman for The New York Times

This recipe for sesame brown butter udon noodles follows the tradition of wafu or Japanese-style pasta.

What to Read

Here are 8 new books publishing this month.

What to Watch

Our critics put together a list of the best films of the year.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Stink (4 letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.


That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Jonathan

P.S. Daniel Berehulak and Kenny Holston are joining The Times as staff photographer correspondents.

“The Daily” is on the Georgia Senate race.

You can reach Jonathan and the team at [email protected].

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