A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, alleging that Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump may have violated federal law by promising Ben Carson a position in exchange for his support. In a letter to the DOJ dated March 29, the American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF), cites an interview that Carson gave to Newsmax TV on March 14, three days after publicly endorsing Trump for President.
During the interview, Carson said he believes Trump will “surround himself with very good people.” The interviewer asked if Carson would be one of those people, and Carson said, “I will be doing things as well.” When pressed if that meant in Trump’s administration, Carson said, “Certainly in an advisory capacity.” The interviewer asked if Carson and Trump discussed this in their conversation that led to the endorsement, and Carson said, “Yes,” although he would not give details, and described the situation as “very liquid.”
The ADLF was established by Hillary Clinton supporter David Brock, and describes itself on its website as “a group established to hold candidates for office accountable for possible ethics and/or legal violations,” argues that this is a violation of 18 U.S. Code Section 599. That statute says:
Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
This is far from an airtight case against Trump. While Carson’s comments indicate that he may assist Trump in some capacity, he didn’t say that he was offered any kind of public office. He didn’t give any real details about how he and Trump would be working together, nor did he say that there were any details to reveal in the first place.
Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine School of Law, doesn’t think this complaint is serious at all. He likens this to a similar situation where the Obama administration had President Bill Clinton try to dissuade Joe Sestak from running for Senate by offering him an unpaid advisory position. That situation, which Hasen called “silly,” ended up being a non-issue, as Sestak ran for Senate anyway, and lost.
[h/t Politico, image via Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]