President Trump is facing gunfire from three different directions in his native New York City, and his chances of escaping unscathed appear long.
We’ve known for some time about the Manhattan District Attorney’s relentless pursuit of the President’s tax records. This odyssey is about to end soon and probably successfully for the DA, at least in terms of securing the records.
Then last week, the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted former Trump guru Stephen K. Bannon on criminal charges. If Bannon cooperates with the authorities, he may well have some vivid stories to tell about Trump and his entourage.
And Monday, New York Atty. General Letitia James filed a request revealing that his office is also on Trump’s trail. The motion revealed a long-standing civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization inappropriately inflated its assets to obtain loans and obtain tax benefits, a practice former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told Congress .
There are serious legal risks for Trump from each of these inquiries, but they are only urgent if he is not re-elected. (We know that the federal government has a policy of not indicting a sitting president, and the state probably does not have the constitutional authority to do so.) If election day results in a loss, it can put in jeopardy. his fortune and even his freedom.
Start with the case pursued by Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. He subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns by his accountants. Documents filed in the case make it clear that Vance believes the statements could shed light on a variety of criminal financial mischief, including the possibly fraudulent treatment of alleged hidden money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
The Supreme Court rejected Trump’s argument in the Vance case – that the president can’t even be investigated – and sent the case back to the trial court. Last week this tribunal rejected the balance Trump’s arguments against respecting subpoenas, calling the reasoning “unprecedented” and “dangerous for the rule of law.”
Then the United States Court of Appeals will hear Trump’s decision request for a stay September 1st. Expect him to refuse the stay as soon as possible and the Supreme Court to reject Trump’s attempt to resume the case; it no longer concerns any interesting or unusual legal principle.
All these back and forths could put eight years of Trump’s tax records – files he promised many years ago that he would release “absolutely” if he ran for office – in Vance’s possession. Because a grand jury is involved, the files will remain out of public view, but in the event that they contain evidence of a crime, including by Trump, Vance appears keen to pull the trigger. accusations.
Meanwhile, down the street at the Southern District of New York City’s United States Attorney’s Office, Steve Bannon’s goose may soon be cooked. Bannon, 66, has been accused of defrauding donors who donated millions to a private effort to help Trump build his great and magnificent border wall. If a jury found him guilty, Bannon would consider the possibility of a recommended heavy sentence, according to a judge’s appeal, of at least five years and more likely 10 years or more.
The best opportunity for Bannon to drastically reduce this potential sentence is to cooperate now with the authorities, and speaking as a former prosecutor, what they would like is evidence of crimes committed by members of the Trump circle.
Bannon is to some extent aware of how he might react if his loyalty was put to the test. “I’ll cover myself against the inconveniences,” he told author Michael Wolff in the book “Siege: Trump Under Fire”. And indicating what a dangerous witness he could be for the president, Wolff quotes Bannon as saying Trump is “not the billionaire he said he was, just another bastard.” Upon release of the book, Trump responded with “Bannon… lost his mind”. But the White House must view Bannon’s arrest with dismay.
Finally, James’ investigation into the Trump Organization’s civil affairs case could also lead to criminal charges – ultimately laid by his office, Vance, or the federal government – that affect the president or those close to him. And the civil charges alone could have serious financial implications for the Trump Organization and the president’s personal fortunes.
With a grand jury and several hovering prosecutors, how would Trump react if Joe Biden wins on November 3? Challenging the outcome of the election might be a way to escape the legal system – but that’s a topic for another column. What about decreeing a broad pardon for himself and others threatened by the New York investigations?
Trump has already shown his willingness to use the power of grace in ways that most presidents would recant (including the White House TV pardon “revealing” at the Republican convention this week). There is no reason to think that a sudden thunderbolt with decorum would prevent Trump from using the power of office for his personal protection.
A pardon might prejudge federal prosecution, but that wouldn’t stand in the way of James and Vance in New York.
Last year, New York changed its double jeopardy law. Prior to the change, state prosecutors could not prosecute conduct that had already been pardoned at the federal level. A narrowly focused review, pushed by James, closed a loophole, in its own words, and provided leeway for criminal charges specifically on charges pardoned by a president. In a statement, James called the change “a necessary control of presidential power today and for all presidents to come.”
Trump has proven to be a prolific escape artist during his presidency, using delay, subterfuge, and political muscle to fend off a number of potentially deadly legal lies, blunders and threats. But his very success has inspired many powerful players to finally want to hold him to account after he leaves office.
It’s up to you, New York, New York.