Ongoing investigations into the Trump Foundation are likely to implicate the Trump Organization–President Donald Trump‘s massive real estate empire—and it’s just a matter of time before this happens, according to a panel of experts surveyed by NBC News.
The key issue appears to be one of overlap between the interests held and/or administered by each entity.
Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner framed the apparent problem:
Nothing but overlap here. It all was held so tightly by [Trump] and his family members. I don’t think there will be any investigative daylight between what the New York state authorities and investigators are looking into with respect to the foundation vs. the organization vs. anything else involving business dealings that have the name “Trump” attached to them.
Former federal prosecutor Daniel S. Goldman sounded a similar note.
“It is likely that the investigation into the Trump Foundation has sufficiently overlapped with the Trump Organization that investigators would be justified in extending their investigation into the Trump Organization,” he told NBC News.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the Trump Foundation agreed to more or less immediately dissolve following an agreement reached by Trump Foundation attorney Alan Futerfas and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, currently led by Barbara Underwood.
The dissolution agreement came just months after Underwood announced a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and its board of directors over allegations of “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct, occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.”
The Trump Foundation, for their part, says the dissolution agreement was welcome by all parties. In comments to NBC News, Futerfas said that his clients wanted to dissolve the charity organization and he ultimately described it as a “successful charity [responsible for] distributing approximately $19 million, including $8.25 million of Trump’s personal money, to over 700 different charitable organizations with virtually zero expenses.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the Trump Foundation will have 30 days to spin off its interests and divert any charitable funds to organizations suitable to receive them. Underwood is also seeking to ban the Trump clan from running a charity in New York for a decade, and year-long bans on other Trump Foundation board members–as well as millions of dollars in restitution. To those ends and others, the investigations and lawsuit are going to continue, according to Underwood spokesperson Amy Spitalnick.
And those ongoing inquiries are probably not going to bode well for Trump’s businesses, experts say.
Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman also invoked the idea of overlap being potentially problematic here.
“The intermingling of Trump Foundation and Trump Organization interests and expenditures will implicate both–that’s one part of why it’s a tax fraud problem,” he said. “They were using the Trump Foundation for the business purposes of the Trump Organization. That’s the easiest case.”
Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor who worked in the Southern District of New York, was a bit more cautious but stuck to the same familiar theme.
“There seems to be entanglements in terms of people and probably in terms of money, that’s where businesses, frankly, do really start to get in trouble in terms of violating tax laws and regular criminal laws,” she said.
Potential liability for the Trump Organization is an argument that national security journalist Marcy Wheeler has been making for some time. And it could have potential impacts on Robert Mueller‘s probe as well.
“If there’s a conspiracy to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, I’m fairly certain the Trump Organization was one of the players in it,” Wheeler noted in a blog post earlier this month.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]