- Nearly every corner of President Donald Trump’s political, business, and charitable activities are the subject of some form of investigation as 2019 begins.
- The probes that have received the most media coverage are special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the campaign finance violations to which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in New York.
- Trump’s charity also faces civil action from New York state.
- And the president faces a lawsuit accusing him of illegally profiting off his presidency.
- Here are all the investigations in which Trump faces criminal and civil liability.
As of now, President Donald Trump faces over a dozen ongoing investigations into his 2016 campaign, his conduct as president, and other criminal and civil offenses relating to his alleged campaign finance violations, business practices, and his charity.
The investigation Trump publicly disparages most often as a “rigged witch hunt” and a “disgrace” is special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to tilt the race in Trump’s favour.
But the one that poses the most immediate danger to Trump himself is the campaign finance probe in the Southern District of New York. In that case, federal prosecutors secured a guilty plea from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for paying for the silence of women who alleged affairs with Trump, a crime to which prosecutors listed Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Here are all the areas currently subjected to ongoing government investigations and state-led lawsuits involving Trump:
The Trump campaign’s knowledge of and possible involvement in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort convened at Trump Tower to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked Russian lobbyist.
- Trump Jr. initially said the meeting had nothing to do with the Trump campaign, asserting that Veselnitskaya instead came to lobby against US sanctions on high-level Russian officials.
- But he amended his statement after it was reported that he agreed to the meeting after he was offered “dirt” on Clinton by the publicist of Emin Agalarov, the son of a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin. The Washington Post later reported that Trump “dictated” the initially misleading statement his son put out after he was contacted about the story.
- Both Trump and Donald Jr. later admitted publicly the meeting was part of an effort to benefit the Trump campaign.
- It is illegal under US campaign finance law for campaigns to accept material aid from foreign nationals. Legal experts say that even if Veselnitskaya did not provide the promised “dirt,” the laws are written in such a manner that even soliciting or inviting such material is a federal crime.
Mueller’s team is also examining the extent to which people in the Trump campaign were aware of, and collaborated in, WikiLeaks’ dissemination of emails hacked from the DNC and Clinton campaign to interfere in the election. Mueller indicted 12 Russian security officers over the hacks in July.
- Both Donald Trump Jr. and Trump ally Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks and a Russian hacker who went by the name Guccifer 2.0, often tweeting links to hacked data at WikiLeaks’ request.
- At least 7 of Stone’s associates, including people he said served as intermediaries between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury convened to hear testimony in the Mueller probe.
- The special counsel is seeking to determine whether Stone and other officials had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ document dumps, as some of Stone’s tweets suggested.
- Mueller has also requested transcripts for Stone’s 2017 testimony before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, a sign that could indicate Mueller is looking to indict Stone for lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks.
The Trump Organisation’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election, referred to in court filings as the “Moscow Project.”
The Trump Organisation reportedly offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a discounted $US50 million penthouse in the proposed Trump Tower Moscow. This offer could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws US officials from giving foreign governments gifts of monetary value in exchange for something they want.
- Businessman Felix Sater told Buzzfeed News that offering Putin a penthouse in the tower was a business tactic intended to raise the property values of the surrounding apartments and make them more attractive prospects for Russian oligarchs.
- Experts say, however, that the deal would only violate the FCPA that if the offer for a discounted penthouse was formally lodged to Russian officials in writing, and if it was made in exchange for something like a tax break or a zoning permit, not just as a marketing ploy to raise the property values.
Trump could also be implicated in his lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to lying to Congress about the timeframe during the 2016 election in which the Trump Organisation pursued the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
- Special counsel Mueller’s sentencing memo for Cohen said that Cohen provided cooperation regarding “the circumstances of preparing his false testimony” and his contacts with White House officials, which experts say could describe a coordinated plot to direct Cohen to make false statements to Congress.
- Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis also told Bloomberg that“Mr. Trump and the White House knew that Michael Cohen would be testifying falsely to Congress and did not tell him not to.”
The probe into Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice and witness tampering as president.
Mueller is also investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice with his May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey, which came after Comey refused to drop the FBI’s probe into Michael Flynn’s false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
- While the White House claimed Comey was fired over his handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Trump later said on national television to NBC host Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” was a factor in his decision.
In July, the New York Times reported that Mueller is also examining whether Trump tampered with witnesses in the Mueller probe with his private interactions and public tweets slamming former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not reigning in the Mueller probe, and not investigating Trump’s political foes.
- Some of the events under scrutiny for possible witness tampering include Trump threatening to fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, suggesting Comey himself should be investigated, and attempting to push other senior officials like then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo into pressuring Comey to shut down the FBI’s probes of Flynn and of Trump himself.
The Times later reported in August that former White House counsel Don McGahn – who was present for many of the events Mueller is examining as part of the obstruction probe –had voluntarily provided 30 hours of testimony to Mueller.
- Some of the other crucial events which McGahn witnessed include the Comey firing, Trump’s attempts to force Sessions to oversee the Russia probe, Trump drafting a letter describing his reasons for firing Comey, and Trump’s reported attempts to fire Mueller himself.
Violations of federal campaign finance law, including the October 2016 payouts to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels to which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to paying.
- On Dec. 12, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty in August to eight federal crimes, including two large payoffs to silence women who claimed to have affairs with Trump, in violation of federal campaign finance laws.
- Prosecutors said in their sentencing memo for Cohen that he made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, officially establishing him as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
- Prosecutors also struck a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc., the parent company of the tabloid The National Enquirer, which paid $US150,000 to buy the rights to McDougal’s story (which the company never published).
- Trump’s two main defences were that he had no knowledge the payments were illegal, and that they were made to protect his businesses and not to influence the election.
- The NPA, however, clearly states that AMI “further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
- NBC and CNN both reported the unnamed Trump campaign official referenced in the NPA as being in the room with Cohen and AMI CEO David Pecker while the deal to purchase McDougal’s story was being made, is none other than Trump himself.
- Federal prosecutors in SDNY are also reportedly launching a criminal probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent some of the $US107 million it raised, and whether it brokered special access to the administration for top inaugural donors.
The lawsuits and investigations involving the Trump Organisation and Trump Foundation.
- On Dec. 18, Trump agreed to dissolve his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, after a lawsuit from the New York Attorney General’s office alleged “persistently illegal conduct.” This included unlawful coordination with the 2016 Trump campaign and multiple self-dealing transactions with the Trump Organisation.
- The suit seeks $US2.8 million in restitution and a temporary ban on Trump and his three eldest children from serving on the boards of New York charitable foundations.
- The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is also investigating whether there is enough evidence to refer criminal charges against foundation executives to the AG’s office for prosecution.
- Incoming New York Attorney General Letitia James has pledged to also investigate Trump and the Trump Organisation on a number of other fronts, including alleged tax evasion and aggressive pursuit of tax breaks.
- Meanwhile, the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, DC, are in the discovery phase of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the constitution, which prohibits elected officials from personally profiting off their office.
- The suit, which is the first-ever emoluments case to go to trial, accuses Trump of illegally making money off his presidency by soliciting business from state and foreign government officials at Trump-owned hotels and restaurants.
- Authorities in New Jersey are reportedly investigating claims that managers at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ provided undocumented employees with fraudulent green cards and social security numbers.
- The probe comes after two employees, Victoria Morales and Sandra Diaz, came forward in The New York Times alleging their managers helped them obtain forged documents. Their attorney says he’s referred the matter to the FBI and New Jersey state investigators.
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