Will Federal prosecutors in New York take President Trump down before Robert Mueller gets his chance to?
With Bloomberg reporting that Manhattan-based prosecutors are continuing their investigation of the Trump Organization’s possible violation of campaign finance laws even after securing a guilty plea from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, that just may be a possibility.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has been working on a parallel track to the Special Counsel’s office and has taken referrals from Mueller as his team uncovers matters that are outside the specific scope of his investigation.
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While Cohen has admitted to violating campaign finance laws by paying off both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to silence them about their affairs with Trump at his direction, using money that was later repaid by the Trump Organization, no one else in the Trump organization has yet been charged in the matter.
Even though Trump has made the false claim that campaign finance violations are not a crime, it is illegal to steer money to benefit any campaign without proper disclosures or in excess of federal limits.
Bloomberg cites Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg as central to the investigation. Weisselberg has already received limited immunity from the prosecutors for his cooperation in the Michael Cohen investigation, but it’s not certain if he is the focus of further inquiries.
Cohen’s indictment specifically says that two Trump company executives approved the illegal payments to the lawyer in violation of campaign-finance laws. One may be Weisselberg, but the identity of the other has not been revealed. The unidentified inside source who informed Bloomberg about the continuing investigation says that prosecutors are probing to find out who else had knowledge of the payments.
The Trump Organization CFO has already been the subject of an inquiry by New York State officials investigating alleged improprieties at Trump’s charitable foundation. The Attorney General of New York filed a civil suit in June against the president and three of his children, alleging that they used the charity as their personal slush fund, diverting at least $2.8 million from their foundation to Trump’s 2016 campaign. The Trump Foundation naturally denies the allegations, claiming that they are politically motivated.
While Cohen awaits sentencing after his guilty plea, the task before prosecutors and FBI agents is to determine whether Trump’s real estate companies or his trust made any additional campaign-related payments without disclosing them properly to election officials, as well as determining exactly whom within the organization was aware of them.
If they act quickly, the results of their investigation may bear bitter fruit for the president well before the Mueller probe is completed. We can only hope.
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