Trump Facing Various Investigations in New York Despite Robert Mueller's Closure Without Bringing Charges Against Him
IBexclusive News Sunday, March 31, 2019.
(IBEXNews) - Trump has been on a victory lap since special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his investigation with a whimper earlier this month — but the commander-in-chief may not be completely out of the woods yet.
Although Mueller’s full report has yet to see the light of day, Attorney General William Barr stated matter-of-factly in a March 24 letter that the special counsel’s investigation cleared Trump of any criminal wrongdoing.
Mueller’s anti-climatic conclusion shifts focus to New York, where at least seven civil and criminal investigations into Trump’s business dealings and personal affairs remain ongoing.
Trump faces several more investigations and lawsuits in states such as New Jersey and Maryland as well as intense oversight efforts in Congress, but the president’s deep ties to his native New York has made him a particularly hot target for Empire State prosecutors.
Southern District of New York
Several of the investigations targeting Trump carry potential criminal repercussions, but none appear to be as threatening as a couple of inquiries being conducted out of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-personal attorney, pleaded guilty in a SDNY case last year that directly implicated the president in illegal pre-2016 election hush money payments.
Cohen confessed Trump ordered him to issue the payments to two women who had threatened to go public with allegations they had sex with the president over a decade ago. Cohen has copped to campaign finance crimes stemming from those payoffs and will start serving a three-year prison sentence in May on those and other charges.
Trump is repeatedly referred to as “Individual 1” throughout court papers, and former prosecutors say the the feds could indict the President on the same crimes Cohen copped to as soon as he leaves the White House. Longstanding Justice Department policy prevents prosecutors from indicting sitting presidents.
“The reason I would say it’s the most dangerous case for Trump is because what we already know is very damning,” said Harry Sandick, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District for nearly six years, specializing in white collar crimes. "We don’t know what else the government has.”
Pertinently, the statute of limitations for the campaign finance crime runs out in 2021, meaning Trump could be charged if he loses the 2020 election.
The Manhattan feds are separately looking into Trump’s inaugural committee and whether it was used as a pay-to-play scheme for deep-pocketed political donors, according to reports.
The committee raised $107 million — more than any other committee in history. Prosecutors are reportedly probing whether foreigners illegally funneled money through the committee via straw donors in order to gain access to the incoming administration and whether Trump enriched himself by plugging proceeds into his own business empire.
Attorney general of New York
Following her November election, New York Attorney General Letitia James pledged to shine “a light” on Trump’s business dealings and probe him for possible crimes — and she has made good on that promise.
James picked up where her predecessor, Barbara Underwood, left off and continued to investigate Trump’s namesake foundation over possible self-dealing. The foundation was forced to dissolve, but James wants the Trump family to cough up millions of dollars in fines and be barred from serving on charity boards for a decade.
Acting on Cohen’s recent congressional testimony that Trump committed bank fraud, James is separately investigating some of Trump’s real estate deals and has subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank and New Jersey-based Investors Bank, according to people familiar with the matter.
Additionally, James’s office has been in contact with several undocumented immigrants who were employed by Trump’s Westchester County golf club, according to Anibal Romero, an attorney representing the workers. The Trump club could be guilty of immigration fraud if it knowingly hired immigrants who weren’t authorized to work in the U.S. Romero says management at the club knew of his clients’s illegal status.
The attorney general’s office in New Jersey is looking into similar allegations at Trump’s Garden State golf club.
New York State Department of Financial Services
Like James’ office, the New York Department of Financial Services launched an investigation into Trump’s business dealings in response to Cohen’s explosive testimony before the House Oversight Committee.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, the department issued subpoenas to Aon, the Trump Organization’s longtime insurance broker, after Cohen testified that the President had submitted false statements to the company to lower his insurance premiums. Doing so could be a crime if Trump knowingly submitted the incorrect information for financial gain.
New York State Department of Taxation
The New York Times published an extensive report in October alleging Trump and his father for years engaged in complex “tax schemes” that at times amounted to “outright fraud.”
Within days of that report, the New York State Department of Taxation confirmed it was looking into the allegations. Shortly thereafter, First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan said city officials had joined state regulators in looking into whether Trump and his family business committed crimes by dodging taxes.