The civil investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation is likely to become a criminal matter in the near future, according to Law&Crime Network host Bob Bianchi, who has experience targeting similar organizations.
Appearing on MSNBC Live on Wednesday morning, the former Morris County prosecutor said that a criminal inquiry and eventual prosecution into the foundation was certainly in the offing.
“It is going to become a criminal matter, I’ve been saying this for a long time,” Bianchi told host Chris Jansing.
The Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve under judicial supervision on Tuesday after an agreement reached with New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood following a months-long civil investigation into the charity. In an interview with Law&Crime, Bianchi explained why he thought that ongoing civil investigation could easily become criminal in nature.
“One of the things to keep in mind is the Al Capone theory of prosecution and how an individual might be perceived to be escaping prosecution for various reasons,” Bianchi said. “Prosecutors will use other criminality found during an investigation to prosecute an individual who they believe has committed significant criminality if they feel like the person is dirty but hasn’t been prosecuted because, of say, lack of evidence or statutes of limitations.”
“This isn’t to say that there’s any comparison to mob-like activity here,” Bianchi stressed before elaborating on why a criminal inquiry related to the Trump Foundation’s business dealings seemed more or less imminent.
“Trump has so many intermingling relationships–business, political, legal–and in many instances, for people who aren’t even named Trump, this combination creates a criminal, toxic cocktail,” Bianchi said.
The former prosecutor continued:
[Barbara] Underwood has indicated that she is going to be looking into the Trump Organization and the charity–you could convert those words to “fraud, tax evasion, criminal misrepresentation and campaign finance violations.” She has given every indication that she’s going to continue this investigation. When charitable funds have been diverted into a campaign, when people are having bake sales to raise money for a charity and that money then goes toward personal and campaign expenses, that’s no bueno. It could be a wrongful conversion, fraud. It’s misappropriation of people’s money. Not to mention the tax issues involved.
Bianchi, who is currently a criminal defense attorney, also went into detail about the civil allegations against the Trump Foundation and how those allegations probably portend criminal charges on the horizon.
“When you move money from a charitable account to a campaign or for personal gain that’s a problem,” Bianchi said. “[The Trump Foundation] moved money from a charitable, not-for-profit organization to a profitable organization with no relationship to the mission of what the charitable organization was advertising.”
Bianchi said that if these allegations concerned less powerful individuals, prosecutors would have most likely already filed charges.
“People have been indicted and gone to jail for far less,” Bianchi said. “I’ve prosecuted smaller clubs–like the Elks Lodge–when organizational money had been converted to personal use. So, it’s amazing to me that some people are calling this a ‘witch hunt’ when their fellow non-powerful friends and family would be prosecuted for so much less.”
Bianchi then compared the inquiry into the Trump Foundation to calls for the Clinton Foundation to be subject to the same or similar levels of law enforcement oversight.
“With the Clinton Foundation–which took in and distributed a lot of money–there was some question about whether that was being done to purchase influence,” he said. “Here, there’s not even a question. They’re using it for campaigns and pictures and football helmets. I don’t see how anyone could be on two sides of this issue.”
As for the endgame? Bianchi believed any eventual criminal inquiry would severely damage Trump even if he were to avoid criminal liability:
If prosecutors believe Trump is a co-conspirator but feel hamstrung by the DOJ memo and regulations [advising against indicting a sitting president] or the pardon power of the president, they could file state charges. And when prosecuted, Trump would be on the defensive and be required to go in and make make a disclosure–along with all the underlying indictment information that would be made public–and explain to a court why he can’t be prosecuted because he’s a sitting president. They’re going to find a way to do what they can to bring those charges to get past any impediments–if the facts warrant them.
[image via screengrab/MSNBC]