Rethinking America

Will Donald Trump Be Criminally Prosecuted?

Cyrus Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, is gunning hard to finally get Trump.

Will Trump be criminally prosecuted?

Takeaways


  • Manhattan’s District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, has just six months left before he retires. The big question is: will he get Trump before he goes?
  • Charges against Trump could run from breaking U.S. election laws, to tax fraud, and dirty dealings with the Russians.
  • Criminal charges could seriously aggravate Trump’s financial challenges. He already owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.
  • The smoking gun may be found in Trump’s tax returns that he sought to hide for years, but which Vance now has in his procession.
  • Trump’s sons, Don and Eric, and daughter, Ivanka, are also being investigated as is the Trump Organization.
  • It is possible that the Trump organization and Trump personally cheated the New York and federal tax authorities of vast sums.
  • We could well see a gradual cascade of indictments against Trump, brought by Vance. Starting with assorted general tax evasions charges.

Cyrus Vance has been Manhattan’s District Attorney for a decade and now, with just six months left before he retires, the one big question is: will he get Trump?

We may find out very soon.

A matter of legacy

For Cyrus Vance, this is a matter of his own legacy. He will be widely seen by the New York City media as a failure if he fails to bring a major criminal case against the former U.S. president.

He has already spent three years deploying an army of investigators to dig up evidence. Charges against Trump could run from breaking U.S. election laws, to tax fraud and dirty dealings with the Russians.

Or other matters that, so far, we know nothing about.

Trump’s ploys

Trump’s tens of millions of American followers will march, scream, and Tweet in protest if their cult leader is criminally charged. Trump assuredly would encourage his followers. He would likely charge that any actions by Vance are just a political ploy by the Democrats.

It could get nasty. Is there any way that in this sharply divided nation, split between Trumpers and all others, that the Donald could ever get a fair trial?

Money troubles

Criminal charges against Trump and, or the Trump Organization, could seriously aggravate Trump’s financial challenges.

He owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to his properties. Many of these have suffered sharp business declines, in part due to COVID-19 and also due to his politics.

An example is the once thriving and now virtually empty Trump Hotel in Washington DC that is up for sale.

Deutsche Bank

The one bank that kept lending to Trump well after all others stopped, is Deutsche Bank. It is now cooperating with Vance and the prosecutors.

The bank no longer lends to the Trump Organization. And there has been an internal investigation into its dealings with Trump. It remains to be seen if and what kind of evidence of wrongdoing is found, that could seriously add to Trump’s woes.

Family

Vance’s team has pursued every imaginable lead to build a criminal case against Donald Trump personally. His sons, Don and Eric, and daughter, Ivanka, are also being investigated, as is the Trump Organization.

New York State’s Attorney-General, Letitia James, has also been investigating Trump. Having possibly found criminal issues, she has been working closely with Vance in recent months.

Did he know?

The critical issue for the prosecutors is: has the Trump Organization pursued criminal activities? And, if yes, then did Donald Trump or his kids intend to do so and know the details?

The range of issues that could lead to criminal charges are many, but it is far from clear that any of them could be so serious as to see Trump spend time behind bars.

Michael Cohen evidence

Trump’s former employee, Michael Cohen was jailed for three years for lying to the FBI. He revealed that Trump not only ordered hush-money be paid to women with whom he had affairs just before the 2016 election, but that he signed the checks himself.

If nothing else, covering up the payments could be construed as hiding material information in violation of federal election laws.

Tax fraud

It is hard to see a jury jailing Trump for that offence, but tax fraud might be a bigger deal. The tip of the iceberg here are suggestions that Trump rented luxury apartments for people associated with his company.

That he paid school fees for some of them and provided other goodies, while finding ways to ensure the beneficiaries avoided paying income taxes.

Far more serious would be evidence that the Trump organization and Trump personally cheated the New York and federal tax authorities of vast sums.

More financial skulduggery

It is possible, as Michael Cohen has suggested, that many properties owned by the Trump Organization were given unrealistically low valuations to minimize property taxes.

At the same time, the same real estate was assigned inflated values by Trump for insurance purposes and to secure collateral for loans.

Tax returns

The smoking gun in this context may be found in Trump’s tax returns that he sought to hide for years, but which Vance now has in his procession.

And then there are questions about how Trump financed many of his ventures without bank loans. Did he do deals with Russian oligarchs and others of that ilk that could raise suspicions of money-laundering?

Prosecutorial pressure

According to a range of U.S. media reports in recent weeks, the Vance team has been placing great pressure on Allen Weisselberg.

Weisselberg is the long-serving chief administrator of the Trump Organization who knows every detail of the firm’s dealings. He may face prosecution himself. Or he may be threatened with prosecution unless he turns against Trump.

Cascading indictments

We could well see a gradual cascade of indictments brought by Vance, starting with assorted general tax evasions charges against the Trump Organization.

Then building with charges against Weisselberg and possibly Trump’s children, and finally with a criminal indictment of Trump himself.

Rudy Giuliani taken out of play

One person who will not be front and center helping Trump in any court battles is his long-time legal advisor and friend, Rudolf Giuliani.

Cyrus Vance has already had Giuliani’s law license suspended for repeatedly providing U.S. courts with “false and misleading” statements in support of Trump’s claim that the last election was rigged.

 

 

 

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About Frank Vogl

Frank Vogl is co-founder of Transparency International and author of Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power. [Washington D.C., United States]

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