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5 February 2019
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
Yesterday, the media story broke reporting that the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has served President Trump's Inaugural Committee with subpoenas for documents related to its accounts. This investigation is completely separate from the Mueller probe, and while it is in the early stages of the process, it represents a long-term threat to the administration as well as to the president and the Trump Organization even after he leaves office.
Unlike the Mueller investigation, the SDNY is able to look into anything that it pleases. Given that most of America's banking operations pass through Manhattan at one stage or another, the US Attorney for the SDNY has great latitude in financial crime investigations. Indeed, within the Justice Department the nickname is the Sovereign District of New York.
The SDNY's request for documents would be considered a rather routine event except for the fact that Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, has entered a cooperation agreement with the Feds. Mr. Cohen knows where the bodies are buried, and he has a decade-plus worth of knowledge. The odds on him being the reason for the SDNY requesting the documents from the committee are quite high, and if so, this is more than just a quick check of records.
A man named Sam Patten pled guilty to acting as a strawman purchaser of tickets to inauguration events for a Russian and a Ukrainian businessman. Tangentially, why is it never an Australian or a German when the Trump administration is involved; it's always east Europeans. Mr. Patten agreed to cooperate with the investigators, so if Mr. Cohen isn't the source, Mr. Patten is, and he has pled guilty.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the records demanded related to the $107 million raised and disbursed by the inaugural committee. Only $61 million appears to have been accounted for in Federal Election Commission filings. The main issues are whether there was complete disclosure, whether anyone lied to investigators and whether foreign donors illegally contributed. One must bear in mind that the money raised was double the previous record held by the first Obama inauguration, and it certainly didn't look twice as lavish. So it is a legitimate question as to where the money went.
In essence, this suggests that a new front in the investigation of all things Trump has opened. The Mueller probe can be shut down, circumscribed and otherwise limited by the Attorney General. The State of New York's AG Letitia James has her own investigation, but she is subject to political considerations as well. Under Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, she has a rather free hand.
If Mr. Cuomo were to be replaced by a Republican when his term ends in three years, the state investigation could be shut down. In the case of the SDNY, it is largely immune to politics. It can investigate indefinitely. Indeed, one could expect Mr. Trump to die under investigation even if he lives another two decades.
In the end, it is all a matter of whether the president and his team broke the law. If they did not, the investigations will exonerate them. The trouble is that there are so many indictments from the Mueller effort, as well as guilty pleas and the Paul Manafort conviction, that exoneration is improbable. The issue now turns on whether anything can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The SDNY has all the time in the world, and that makes it the biggest threat of all to Mr. Trump personally.
© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.