Trump Still Faces Other Investigations 03/23 10:39
Trump Still Faces Other Investigations 03/23 10:39
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump still has to contend with state and
federal investigators in New York, even though special counsel Robert Mueller
has wrapped up his investigation with no additional indictments.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are pursuing at least two known criminal
inquiries involving Trump or people in his orbit, one involving his inaugural
committee and another focused on the hush-money scandal that led his former
lawyer, Michael Cohen, to plead guilty last year to campaign finance violations.
The president also faces inquiries from New York's attorney general, Letitia
James, who recently opened a civil inquiry into Cohen's claims that Trump
exaggerated his wealth when seeking loans for real estate projects and a failed
bid to buy the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, a state regulatory entity is
looking into whether Trump gave false information to insurance companies.
Cohen told Congress in testimony last month he is in "constant contact" with
prosecutors involving ongoing investigations.
Trump has dismissed the New York investigations as politically motivated.
"These investigations could pose a danger to everybody in Trump's inner
circle," said Patrick J. Cotter, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern
District of New York. "They are very real and very significant. If you're
Trump, this has got to feel, in some ways, like an even greater threat than the
Mueller on Friday gave his report on possible collusion with the Kremlin in
the 2016 presidential election to the office of U.S. Attorney General William
Barr. Its contents remain confidential, but Barr said he will decide soon how
much of the report he will release to Congress and the public. As of Friday
evening, the White House said it had not seen or been briefed on the document.
The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment on the New York
probes but has told a federal judge it is still investigating campaign-finance
violations committed when Cohen helped orchestrate six-figure payments to a
porn actress, Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, to
keep them quiet during the campaign about alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen
says Trump ordered the payments and later reimbursed him for his efforts. So
far, nobody besides Cohen has been charged.
Political observers have continued to speculate that Cohen, who is scheduled
to report to prison in May, might secretly be providing investigators with
"If you've got Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer, as a tour
guide, that means you could go anywhere," former Gov. Chris Christie of New
Jersey told MSNBC recently.
Cohen stoked speculation when he told Congress he was aware of other
"wrongdoing" involving Trump but couldn't talk about it because it was "part of
the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of
Among other things, he suggested prosecutors were investigating
communications he had with either Trump or one of his representatives in spring
2018 in the months after the FBI raided his home and office. At the time, Cohen
was looking for information about whether Trump might consider giving him a
But there was a sign Friday that the federal probe in Manhattan also could
be winding down or shifting course: the news that Robert Khuzami, the
prosecutor leading the Cohen probe, will step down April 12. The case went to
Khuzami when U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman was recused for undisclosed
reasons. Berman remains in charge of other investigations related to Trump.
The president has denied breaking any laws and dismissed Cohen as a liar. He
derided the state investigations in New York as a "witch hunt," calling the
state and its Democratic governor and attorney general "proud members of the
group of PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS."
Trump says the payments to Daniels and McDougal were a private matter
unrelated to his campaign.
The White House has said Trump was not involved in the operations of his
inaugural committee, which raised $107 million to celebrate his election.
The inquiry into the committee has focused partly on whether donors received
"benefits" after making contributions or whether foreign nationals made barred
donations, according to a subpoena sent to the committee. The same document
shows prosecutors are looking at whether the committee's vendors were paid with
The U.S. Justice Department has held for nearly a half-century that a
sitting president is constitutionally immune from criminal prosecution, a
conclusion Cotter, the former prosecutor, referred to as Trump's "ace in the
If prosecutors find evidence Trump committed a crime, they could wait to
charge him after he leaves office, though the legal deadline for filing charges
is five years for most federal offenses, including the campaign-finance
violations in question in the Cohen case.
The possibility of Trump's re-election has raised questions about whether
that deadline could be tolled --- suspended --- for the duration of his
Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of
New York, said it's unlikely a judge would allow that because no law expressly
forbids charges against a sitting president. Tolling the statute of limitations
is typically reserved for circumstances beyond the government's control, like
when a defendant becomes a fugitive.
"The DOJ, in fact, could proceed with a case" against the president, said
Rodgers, who lectures at Columbia Law School. "They aren't because of their own
James, New York's attorney general, also has a pending lawsuit alleging
Trump and his family illegally ran the Trump Foundation as an extension of his
businesses and presidential campaign. And she has called for a "full
examination" of a New York Times report accusing Trump's family of benefiting
from "dubious tax schemes" in the 1990s.
The foundation has agreed to dissolve. Its lawyers have argued that the
lawsuit is flimsy and politically motivated.
Experts have said the president is unlikely to be criminally prosecuted over
the tax matters, which are far past the statute of limitations, but state
officials could pursue Trump for millions of dollars in civil fines.