Trumps World Still Faces 16 Known Criminal Probes
In the months since, there have been significant developments in many of the cases—particularly in the last three weeks, which have seen the release of Robert Mueller’s final report as special counsel, charges against DC power lawyer Greg Craig for his work alongside Paul Manafort, and the sentencing last week of Russian “spotter” Maria Butina, as well as the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the Ecuadoran government booted him out of its embassy in London, where he’d spent the better part of a decade hiding. Over the winter, prosecutors also charged Michael Flynn’s former business partners for their role in a Turkish lobbying scheme.
Now, as US attorney general William Barr prepares to face congressional hearings this week about the Mueller probe’s conclusions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller probe for nearly two years, resigns, a fresh assessment of the current investigative landscape facing Trump makes clear how the center of gravity of the probes has shifted to New York—to the Southern District, which continues several investigations into Trump’s world and to the new state attorney general, Letitia James, who has followed through on her campaign pledge to hold Trump accountable and who just Monday faced presidential Twitter opprobrium for her push to investigate the NRA.
“I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” Trump ally, former prosecutor, and one-time New Jersey governor Chris Christie told ABC News this winter.
Back in December, I ran down the 17 investigations, which at the time focused on questions about Trump’s world and Russian influence in the US, included the following:
1. The 2016 Russian election attack
3. Middle Eastern influence
4. Paul Manafort’s activities
5. The Trump Tower Moscow project
6. Russia-Trump Campaign contacts
7. Presidential obstruction of jusice
8. Campaign finance violations and Trump Organization finances
9. Inauguration funding
10. SuperPAC funding
11. Foreign lobbying violations
12. Russian spy Maria Butina
13. Russian Internet Research Agency accountant Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova
14. Turkish influence
15. Trump Organization tax fraud
16. Trump Foundation fraud
17. Violations of the emoluments clause
Today, perhaps half of those cases have more or less wrapped up. With a few minor exceptions, Mueller appears to have entirely wrapped up four major threads of his investigation: (No. 1) the Russian election attack, (No. 5) Trump Tower Moscow, (No. 6) the Trump-Russia contacts, and (No. 7) the obstruction probe, as well as—for the most part—(No. 4) the probe of Paul Manafort , although there are some signs in the Mueller report that prosecutors are still picking at loose ends there.
The Maria Butina case (No. 12), similarly, appears to be all but over, although her boyfriend, GOP adviser Paul Erickson, was charged in February with fraud unrelated to Russia or the 2016 campaign. There’s been no further movement in the case of the IRA’s accountant (No. 13) nor, according to the Justice Department, are there are any further sealed charges against other Russian hackers who were part of the GRU military intelligence unit or the Internet Research Agency.
The charges against Greg Craig appear to mostly wrap up the foreign-lobbying-violations part of the investigation (No. 11), too, although the redactions in Mueller’s Appendix D appear to block out a second name who may face legal action. Similarly, the charges against Michael Flynn’s business partners presumably close out that case (No. 14).
That leaves open at least eight of the original 17, as well at least another eight new cases that have emerged in recent months. Effectively everything with a Russian nexus appears to be over, leaving a dozen cases focused on Trump world’s finances.
In other words, Trump’s world still appears to face 16 known criminal and civil probes, from as many as a dozen different federal, state, and local prosecutors. (That’s not counting the dozen cases that the special counsel’s office referred to other law enforcement agencies, cases mentioned in Mueller’s report but redacted so as to obscure any details about them.)
Here are the 16 known cases, starting with the remaining Mueller threads:
Unlike the majority of Mueller’s work, the investigations around Wikileaks’ role in the 2016 election appears to be ongoing—potentially even on more than one front. Throughout Mueller’s final report, the sections related to Trump associate Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi were consistently redacted. Corsi, who came close to a plea agreement with Mueller for lying to federal investigators, seems likely to face continued scrutiny; the first mention of his name in the Mueller Report actually comes inside a redaction. (Its presence is evident from the context.)
The remaining prosecutors assigned to Mueller’s work actually won a court victory this week, to compel the testimony of Stone associate Andrew Miller, so it’s clear the team continues to push that case forward; a trial for Stone, accused of lying to investigators, is set for later this year.
Yet it seems possible that the Wikileaks investigation may not end with Stone or Corsi either: Assange’s April 11 arrest (and pending extradition to the US) means he might someday face at least a criminal computer hacking charge here, although there’s some evidence a grand jury may be continuing to consider other charges against him. Following the end of Mueller’s special counsel probe, federal prosecutors in DC are pursuing the Stone case, whereas across the Potomac, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia are handling the Assange case.
2. Middle Eastern Influence
While Mueller touches on the role of would-be Middle Eastern power broker George Nader in his report, his team’s battle with an unnamed foreign entity continues in court. It’s unclear what state-owned company is at the heart of the battle, but the case has wound through the court systems for months before being turned down by the Supreme Court last month. Close observers of the case, though, say it likely focused on a Middle Eastern firm. Whatever—and wherever—it is, prosecutors remain keen to pry open its secrets.
Then there are at least four cases being pursued by federal authorities in New York.
3. Campaign finance conspiracy
It’s not clear that there are any further shoes to drop from federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in their investigation of Trump’s campaign finance violations, stemming from the hush money paid to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. This case is the only one that has named the president personally in court papers, identifying him as “Individual 1,” the person who directed the conspiracy to which Michael Cohen has already pleaded guilty.
But in a new interview with The New Yorker this week, Cohen expressed his puzzlement that prosecutors haven’t appeared to pursue a case further against Trump. “You are going to find me guilty of campaign finance, with McDougal or Stormy, and give me three years—really?” Cohen said. “How come I’m the only one? I didn’t work for the campaign. I worked for him. And how come I’m the one that’s going to prison? I’m not the one that slept with the porn star.”
4. Inauguration spending
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan, part of the Southern District of New York, have an ongoing investigation of Trump’s inaugural committee, focusing on where the money went. This winter, investigators served subpoenas aimed at uncovering where the Trump inauguration’s record-setting budget went, a probe spurred in part by recordings from Michael Cohen in which he discussed with one of Melania Trump’s advisers worries about the spending.
5. Inauguration funding
Separately from the Southern District probe, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating where the Trump inauguration’s money came from. As The New York Times has summarized, the Eastern District of New York is “investigating whether inaugural officials helped foreigners illegally funnel donations to Trump’s inaugural committee using so-called straw donors to disguise their donations.”
6. SuperPAC funding
One of the cases that grew out of the Mueller investigation of Trump’s campaign SuperPAC, Rebuilding America Now, which involved Paul Manafort. Sam Patten, a Manafort associate who pleaded guilty to charges in Mueller’s case, has been cooperating with investigators.
New York state and local authorities are also building cases, both criminal and civil.
7. Tax investigation
Following the New York Times’ blockbuster exposé last year, which revealed that “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud,” New York tax authorities announced they were reviewing the allegations.
8. The Trump Foundation
New York filed a civil case last year against Trump’s foundation, whose odd spending patterns had been the subject of investigative reporting in The Washington Post and had been labeled by New York's attorney general at the time as a “a shocking pattern of illegality.” The Trumps agreed in December to disband the foundation, but the case continues as New York pushes to ban the Trumps from participating in other nonprofit boards.
9. Trump Organization finance probe
The New York attorney general subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and other entities soon after Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress this winter, looking for information about the financing of various Trump projects and attempting to establish whether the developer had artificially inflated his net worth and assets, as Cohen alleged.
According to the subpoena, the investigation focused on the financing behind specific high-profile undertakings, including the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC, the Trump Doral golf club in Florida, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and the Trump Park Avenue project in New York, as well as Trump’s unsuccessful effort to buy the Buffalo Bills football team, which was the subject of some of Cohen’s testimony and allegations before Congress.
10. The NRA
The once-powerful National Rifle Association has faced intense scrutiny over the past year, and President Trump lashed out Monday at its most recent inquisitor, New York attorney general Letitia James.
Meanwhile, a handful of other jurisdictions around the country are pursuing various Trump-related threads.
11. Emoluments lawsuit
Two attorneys general, in Maryland and DC, have been pursuing a lawsuit claiming that the president is in breach of the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution, which is meant to prohibit the president from accepting payments from foreign powers while in office. They’ve been pushing for the disclosure of financial records of the Trump Organization and hotel, particularly following odd reporting about how the Saudi government evidently purchased more than 500 rooms at Trump’s hotel in DC (which is a federal property) in the months after the election. The case has been tied up in court, and its chance of success is unclear.
12. Federal and State immigration violations
Recent investigative reporting has focused on the large number of undocumented immigrants apparently illegally employed at various Trump properties, including as housekeepers, golf course attendants, and even Trump’s family driver. At least one of those properties—the Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course where Trump often vacations during the summer when his Mar-a-Lago winter club is closed—now faces a probe by the FBI and New Jersey investigators.
13. Paul Manafort mortgage case
Just hours after Manafort faced sentencing for his federal cases that grew out of Mueller’s probe, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. indicted the former Trump campaign chair on a fresh round of mortgage fraud charges, a move that could mean that even if Manafort someday receives a presidential pardon, he would still be on the hook for the state charges. (The president does not have pardon power in state cases.) In announcing the new charges, Vance said the case involves “serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”
14. DC’s Trump inauguration probe
Separate from the federal probe of the inauguration, DC’s attorney general, who hasn’t been shy about the limelight—he’s been part of at least 16 cases challenging the Trump administration’s actions—has been moving forward with his own investigation of Trump’s abnormally expensive inaugural parties. As CNN said, “The subpoena asks for inaugural committee financial and governance documents, vendor contracts and communications, as well as money the committee paid to the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington.”
15. Elliot Broidy investigation
The top GOP fundraiser and megadonor is facing a probe into conspiracy and money laundering, and his offices were raided last summer. (This case may involve federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.) He’s at least the third RNC finance leader from the 2016 campaign to face investigations—alongside Trump fixer and fellow RNC deputy finance chair Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to various felonies related to his work with Trump and other matters, as well as casino mogul and former RNC finance chair Steve Wynn, who resigned from the RNC after facing sexual misconduct allegations that led to a $20 million fine against his company.
16. Chinese influence/RNC finance probe
In the wake of the salacious headlines around a network of Florida massage parlors and Patriots owner Bob Kraft came revelations that the central figure in that case, Cindy Yang—who took a Super Bowl selfie with Trump himself—evidently helped usher Chinese tech leaders into Trump’s presence for $50,000 a pop, money that went to the RNC. Where that money came from, what Cindy Yang’s exact relationship to donors is, and how she gained access to the Republican events she did is all part of a federal probe in Florida, which may primarily be a counterintelligence matter, particularly following the bizarre arrest of a Chinese woman carrying an odd assortment of technology at Mar-a-Lago this month.
Beyond the specific cases and investigative avenues I’ve outlined here, it’s hard to know how to count the 12 unknown cases referred out by Mueller, both because they could presumably involve criminal behavior far removed from the Trump orbit—akin to the prosecution of Richard Pinedo, the unwitting Californian charged with identity fraud in helping the Russian Internet Research Agency fool social media platforms—or the cases could involve allegations of criminality against Trump-world figures apparently unrelated to their campaign lives, like the charges Mueller eventually brought against Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Cohen.
Moreover, as USA Today’s Brad Heath has pointed out, we shouldn’t assume that all of those remaining 12 cases are active, even if they were all redacted under the heading of “harm to ongoing matter.” Some of the cases might have been declined by prosecutors, after Mueller referred them, and others might have been investigated and closed. As Heath says, “The FBI has been known to take a capacious view of the phrases ‘ongoing’ and ‘harmful.’”
That count also leaves aside the various unfolding congressional investigations. And however embarrassing or politically damaging to the president they may be, they are less likely than a criminal investigation to result in felony charges—although evidence gathered in them might be referred to prosecutors, as might witnesses who lie to or impede them.
At this rate, Trump’s investigations may outlast his presidency.