Beyond Mueller: Other jurisdictions could haunt Trump and his family long after the special counsel’s final report is delivered
Some critics of President Donald Trump are hoping that when the final report for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is released, it will be so damning that impeachment will be inevitable. But if there is a major lesson to be learned from attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee on February 27, 2019, it is that Trump’s legal woes don’t begin or end with Russiagate. Cohen, who spent more than a decade in Trump’s employ, wasn’t allowed to discuss Mueller’s probe at the Wednesday hearing—and yet, he spoke for hours about things he believed could imperil Trump legally, from banking and tax matters to campaign finance violations.
The federal prosecutors Cohen has been cooperating with include not only Mueller’s office, but also, U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of New York. And investigations of Trump will not end after Mueller’s final report is delivered.
Here are some legal or political entities apart from Mueller’s team that will no doubt be paying close attention to President Trump, members of his family and his business associates in the months ahead.
1. The Southern District of New York
After Cohen’s February 27 testimony, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “I’ve always said, Chris, that Bob Mueller is not what should concern the president or the White House. That’s the Southern District of New York.” Christie added that Southern District prosecutors “have no limit on their scope. Bob Mueller has a limit on his scope; it’s Russia and Russia-related activities.”
Christie went on to say that he is confident that the Southern District is building a case against Trump’s associates as well as Trump himself after he leaves office. Cohen, he stressed, spent more than a decade working for Trump and has extensive knowledge of the president’s business activities—and he predicted that Cohen will be having a lot more conservations with Southern District prosecutors.
2. The New York State Attorney General’s Office
In 2018, former New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood proved to be a major thorn in Trump’s side—and it was under her watch that Trump agreed to dissolve his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Underwood declared that she saw a “shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation, including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”
But the New York State Attorney General’s Office won’t be easing up on Trump now that Underwood is gone. Underwood’s successor, fellow Democrat Letitia James, has made it clear that she has an abundance of Trump-related investigations in mind and plans to examine everything from his real estate holdings to whether or not he has violated the
U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which restricts presidents and other federal officials from receiving payments or gifts from foreign powers.
A spokesperson for James told Philly.com that she is “reviewing Michael Cohen’s testimony carefully to determine if it will impact” any “investigation that the office is undertaking.”
3. The District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office
On February 26, the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee for documents pertaining to its finances. DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine, in the subpoena, said his office is investigating Trump’s inaugural committee to see if “expenditures of its nonprofit funds were wasteful, mismanaged, and/or improperly provided private benefit, causing the committee to exceed or abuse its authority or act contrary to its nonprofit purpose.” Previously, the DA’s offices of the District of Columbia and Maryland filed a lawsuit against Trump, alleging he had received illegal payments from foreign governments through his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
4. The House Financial Services Committee and House Ways and Means Committee
Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia said of Cohen’s February 27 testimony, “He set a very rich table. We’re now looking at a 10-course meal.” And there are many Trump-related matters that Democrats in the House of Representatives can investigate. For example, the House Finance Committee has said it will be taking a look at the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The House Ways and Means Committee has been expressing interest in Trump’s tax returns, and Rep. Maxine Waters (who now heads the House Financial Services Committee) has indicated she plans to investigate whether or not Trump “directed payments into” the Donald J. Trump Foundation “to keep from paying taxes.”
On top of all that, California Rep. Brad Sherman (also on the House Financial Services Committee) has said that House Democrats will be looking into Cohen’s allegation that Trump exaggerated his net worth in order to lower his insurance premiums and receive bank loans.