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Donald Trump circle in legal peril despite end of Robert Mueller probe

Democrats in Congress have started their own investigations

Christian Berthelsen & David Joachim | Bloomberg 

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Robert Mueller’s job may be done, but President still faces potential legal peril from many sides.

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating the Trump Organization and his 2016 campaign for possible campaign finance violations. They’ve also issued subpoenas to Trump’s inaugural committee. The New York state attorney general is looking into the president’s charity. And his ex-fixer told Congress that there are other active federal probes into the business that he couldn’t discuss.

At the same time, Democrats in Congress have started their own investigations, punctuated by a sweeping request for documents.

Although a Justice Department legal opinion states that it would be too disruptive to indict a sitting president, the continuing investigations could pose legal trouble for Trump after he leaves office -- and more immediately for the people and organisations close to the president.

ALSO READ: Mueller Russia probe report: Trump Jr to Kushner, who escaped charges

Mueller wrapped up his investigation without adding to his tally of indictments, welcome news for members of Trump’s family and inner circle.

For the president, “the biggest legal minefield here is the number of different offices looking at this,” said Berit Berger, a former federal prosecutor who’s now at Columbia Law School. “You can’t say they’re all witch hunts.”

Here’s a look at the active investigations:

Trump campaign finance

For all of Trump’s tweets railing against Mueller, the potentially more dangerous investigation for the president is one run by federal prosecutors in New York. Among topics they’ve pursued are campaign-finance violations and misleading public statements about the Trump Organization’s business pursuits in Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

That investigation appears to have been spurred by the prosecution of Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. After the raided Cohen’s home and office, he admitted that Trump directed hush payments to women claiming sexual relationships with Trump, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

ALSO READ: No new charges: Mueller concludes 22-month old Trump-Russia probe

Those payments could be considered illegal campaign contributions if they are found to have aided Trump’s candidacy. The investigation could strike at the heart of Trump’s business, because prosecutors in New York are looking at whether others at the Trump Organization might have broken campaign-finance laws.

Trump’s business

In testimony to Congress, Cohen named three top Trump Organization executives who might know about potential insurance or bank fraud at the real-estate development company. He also said he was unable to discuss certain other topics related to Trump’s business because of his assistance with active investigations by federal prosecutors in New York.

Trump’s Inaugural committee

Federal prosecutors in New York are also looking at whether foreign money was funneled into the president’s inaugural committee in violation of the law. They’re examining allegations of money laundering, false statements and fraud, including suspicions that service providers were asked to accept off-the-books payments directly from financial donors, two people familiar with the matter have said.

Prosecutors in Washington have already secured one conviction in a prosecution spun off by Mueller’s team. As part of a plea agreement, Sam Patten, a Washington lobbyist and associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, admitted helping a Ukrainian oligarch obtain an inaugural invite by funneling a $50,000 contribution through a straw donor.

First Published: Sat, March 23 2019. 21:51 IST
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