Home Legal Trump’s legal peril goes far beyond special counsel

Trump’s legal peril goes far beyond special counsel


CLOSE

Democrats launched a sweeping new probe of President Donald Trump on Monday, an aggressive investigation that threatens to shadow the president through the 2020 election season with inquiries into his White House, campaign and family businesses. (March 4)
AP

WASHINGTON – The investigations surrounding President Donald Trump’s campaign and his presidency have not ended even though Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has wrapped up his probe.

Prosecutors in a half-dozen federal, state and city jurisdictions are pursuing overlapping inquiries focused on how Trump operated his namesake business empire, how a porn star was paid off in the final weeks of his campaign and how his inaugural committee raised money. New York State alone has three agencies conducting investigations.

At least six congressional committees are studying Trump’s personal finances, his inauguration committee, his business practices before he took office and his conduct since assuming the presidency, seeking evidence of what senior Democrats have called corruption or abuse of his office.

The extent ofthose inquiries – and the jeopardy they create for Trump and those in his political orbit – is impossible to know because some of the probes overlap and some investigators haven’t revealed the scope of their work. For example, federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern and Eastern districts are each investigating Trump’s $107 million inaugural committee.

Mueller’s investigation culminates Thursday when the Justice Department will release the special counsel’s final report. That investigation did not conclude that Trump had broken the law, but it triggered a set of new and wide-ranging inquiries into the core of Trump’s business practices and his presidency. 

So far, none of those investigations have directly accused the president of wrongdoing, though some have come close. Federal prosecutors in New York last year told a judge that Trump had directed his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to orchestrate illegal payoffs in the final months of his campaign to silence two women who claimed to have had sex with him.

Trump repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election a partisan “witch hunt” and called state-level investigators “presidential harassers.”

But many of the investigations that are ongoing – including the probes of hush payments and of the inaugural committee – are closely tied to the special counsel’s work, which produced a cascade of separate investigations. 

Federal inquiries of Trump’s campaign

Federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing at least two inquiries. One office is scrutinizing Trump’s inaugural committee, including whether donors received benefits in exchange for funding the $107 million celebration, according to a subpoena sent to the committee. The authorities also are scrutinizing whether vendors were paid with unreported donations or whether foreign nationals made contributions that are prohibited.

Samuel Patten, 47, was sentenced Friday to three years’ probation and fined $5,000 after pleading guilty in August to lobbying for a Ukrainian political party without reporting it to the Justice Department. Patten also helped conceal a Ukrainian national who bought $50,000 worth of tickets to Trump’s inauguration, prosecutors said. Patten “provided substantial assistance” to Mueller, who referred his case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, according to prosecutors.

Another federal inquiry in New York focuses on the hush-money Cohen said Trump told him to pay to two women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations for the six-figure payments before the 2016 election to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Prosecutors said Trump and his business reimbursed Cohen for some of the payments, falsely concealing them a retainer for his legal services.

Cohen provided the House Oversight and Reform Committee with a copy of a $35,000 check that Trump signed personally to reimburse him in a series of installments during the first year of his presidency. Other checks were signed by Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, chief finance officer for the Trump Organization. When a lawmaker asked whether the checks documented a “criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” Cohen testified: “Yes.”

Prosecutors in New York opened their investigation of Cohen in early 2018 after receiving a referral from Mueller.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and called Cohen a convicted liar, who heads to prison for three years on May 6. Trump questioned whether the payments even qualified for criminal charges, but said he never told Cohen to break the law.

Cohen also suggested that the Justice Department might be pursuing other investigations. During his testimony to the House, he said prosecutors in New York were investigating his most recent communication with Trump. And he said he was in “constant contact” with prosecutors about other investigations, but didn’t elaborate on their subject. 

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, has said the legal team is “fully” aware of what prosecutors in both Washington and New York are pursuing. “Cohen did everything he could to create innuendo,” Giuliani said. “I think we have no liability.”

New York probes Trump finances

Cohen’s House testimony in February spurred investigations by state authorities in New York. Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, is investigating whether Trump exaggerated his wealth when seeking real-estate loans, including while he was pursuing a failed bid for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. State investigators have issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for documents about real-estate deals and the Bills bid.

The New York State Department of Financial Services subpoenaed documents in March from the Trump Organization’s insurer, Aon PLC, after Cohen testified that the company inflated the value of its assets.

“It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” Cohen told the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February. “That was one function. Another was when we were dealing later on with insurance companies, we would provide them with these copies so that they would understand that the premium which is based sometimes upon the individual’s capabilities to pay would be reduced.”

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has been probing Trump’s private charity, the Trump Foundation, since last year. The foundation agreed to dissolve amidst accusations that it had violated rules that constrain how charities use their money.

The department is also investigating claims of tax fraud in an October story in the New York Times.

Congress scrutinizes Trump, business

Trump also faces a series of congressional investigations, nearly all of them being conducted by House Democrats who have been eager to pry into his business dealings and his conduct since becoming president. And they have begun demanding records that could shed light on Trump’s finances. 

But House Republicans have dismissed the investigations into Trump’s personal finances and business as fishing expeditions aimed at his impeachment. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said investigating Trump’s private finances is an “astonishing abuse” of the panel’s authority. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said valid congressional oversight can’t be used to inquire into private affairs unrelated to legislation.

The inquiries include:

•The House Ways and Means Committee has asked the Internal Revenue Service for Trump’s personal income-tax forms from 2013 through 2018, which he has resisted providing.

•The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees have subpoenaed Trump financial records from Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions, to learn more about his finances. Cohen provided the House Oversight and Reform Committee with Trump’s personal financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013, which Cohen said were given to Deutsche Bank for the potential loan to buy the Buffalo Bills.

•The House Judiciary Committee is conducting a wide-ranging probe of whether Trump obstructed justice during Mueller’s investigation, or abused the powers of his office, chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. The committee has requested documents from 81 people and organizations connected to the administration or Trump’s business and approved for subpoenas for some of Trump’s onetime top aides, including strategist Steve Bannon, former communications director Hope Hicks, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

•The Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed documents from Mazars USA accounting firm for Trump’s financial records, to corroborate Cohen’s testimony about plans for the Buffalo Bills. The committee is also investigating the federal lease for Trump International Hotel, which occupies a government-owned building a few blocks from the White House. Some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the arrangement because Trump is essentially both tenant and landlord, by overseeing the General Services Administration.

•The House and Senate intelligence committees are each continuing their investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The goal is to legislate responses to reduce or prevent foreign manipulation of the 2020 election.

Contributing: The Associated Press

More about investigations of President Donald Trump:

Did Trump keep his 19 promises to insulate himself from his business? Only he knows.

Mueller report: Why so many of President Donald Trump’s aides lied to protect him in Russia investigations

Michael Cohen’s testimony prompts a new question: In web of Trump investigations, is anyone safe?

‘I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore.’ Michael Cohen ties the president to ongoing criminal probes

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

 

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/17/mueller-report-president-donald-trump-legal-peril-investigations/3486106002/



Source link