May 25, 2022

Congressman Ted Lieu just accused Trump of four “possible felonies”

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As a federal prosecutor and mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani was known for being a publicity-seeking braggart with a big mouth – and now that big mouth may have pushed his new client, Donald Trump, out of the frying pan and into an even bigger fire. 

When Trump’s recently appointed personal attorney told Sean Hannity and later the New York Times that the president had reimbursed his outside personal attorney Micahel Cohen for the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels in November 2016, his intent was to clear the president of any charges of campaign finance violations.

While he may have done that, Giuliani inadvertently opened Trump up to even more serious civil and criminal charges that carry potential penalties of at least $50,000 in fines and six years or more in prison. 

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Guliani was admitting that Trump – despite his repeated denials that he had any knowledge of the transaction – failed to report the secret payments to Cohen to cover the $130,000 payment, taxes and other aspects, with an amount now believed to have been about $460,000 that was paid out in $35,000 a month installments throughout most of 2017.

If true, that means that on Trump’s mandatory public financial disclosure report (OGE 278),  the president also “knowingly and willfully failed to report it,” according to the nonprofit group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW),

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CREW, headed by President Obama’s White House ethics czar,  in March has sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Office of Government Ethics asking for an investigation into whether Trump repaid Cohen the $130,000 hush payment to Daniels which “constituted a loan which Trump intended to repay and which he would then have been required to report on the public financial disclosure form he filed last year.”

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Today, CREW filed a supplement to that request citing the information provided by Guiliani which says if Cohen’s payment was, in fact, a loan, then Trump “violated federal law by failing to disclose it as a liability on his OGE 278 report, filed in June 2017.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) today said in a tweet that he agrees with CREW’s conclusions, and added two more potential charges that could result in additional fines and/or jail time.

One potential charge would be if Trump purposely stretched out the re-payments to Cohen to avoid the limit on “in-kind coordinated contributions about limits ($10,000) which must be reported. 

The other violation would be if it were proved Cohen was a “straw donor used to cover up true source of the contribution,” charges Lieu. 

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What this means is that Trump’s arrogance and his lawyer’s ignorance (Cohen and Guiliani and possibly others) adds a list of potentially troubling and serious new legal problems for the president.

Trump as a businessman always played the edges, reneging on deals, failing to pay vendors, playing fast and loose with facts, and because he was rich and powerful often got away with it.

As president, Trump is under a different set of ethical rules that are much more difficult to lie his way out of, and which could fuel new investigations and feed Special Counsel Robert Mueller new kinds of charges to bring against the president. 

Whether Trump grants Mueller an interview about the collusions charges or not, this could lay a clear path to Trump’s door of wrongdoing at a high level that would open him up to the end of his presidency and even time in a federal prison.

Guiliani was the lawyer who came on board Trump’s team claiming he would end the Special Counsel’s investigation in a couple week but instead he may be the source of a whole new wave of problems for the president that could take months, even years, to play out.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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