The recent indictment against various Russian individuals and entities that alleged a massive scheme to interfere with the U.S. political system leading up to the 2016 election was eye-opening, not just for revealing just how big the alleged plot was, but for its lack of any allegations that President Donald Trump‘s campaign had anything to do with it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation’s main purpose was to investigate the Trump campaign’s connections to Russian interference efforts, but after these indictments, plus those of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as multiple guilty pleas, Mueller has yet to charge anyone involved in Trump’s campaign with illegal acts involving collusion with Russia. According to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, however, a lack of collusion evidence doesn’t mean the president is out of the woods just yet.
Turley wrote in a recent column that while charges of collusion and even obstruction of justice appear unlikely at the moment, Mueller’s broad authority could lead to him discovering potential impropriety with Trump’s business dealings, even if it has nothing to do with his campaign.
“Trump’s extensive holdings and deals maximize the risk of irregularities and violations,” Turley wrote, noting that Mueller has a number of financial fraud experts on his team.
In particular, Trump’s business history with Russia is extensive, with Donald Trump Jr. acknowledging that the Trump family has received a significant amount of money in investments from Russia. Turley also mentioned how Trump Sr. had extensive dealings with Deutsche Bank, which has been implicated in Russian money laundering. If Mueller is investigating these financial ties, the tiniest error or misdeed could result in charges.
A number of the convictions that Mueller has secured were based on false statements that individuals made to investigators. A reported fear of Trump’s lawyers is that Mueller’s team wants a sit-down interview with Trump in order to see if they can get him to say the wrong thing that could result in similar charges. Even if Trump didn’t do anything that was technically illegal in the past, if he contradicts himself or isn’t completely truthful about something during such an interview, that could be enough for thee Special Counsel’s office to pounce on him.
Finally, Turley brought up the recent news of payments made to keep women from discussing alleged affairs they had with Trump. Most notable was Trump attorney Michael Cohen‘s claim that he paid former adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to not talk about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump while he was already married to wife Melania.
“Mueller could investigate the payments as possible campaign-finance violations within his mandate,” Turley said, likening the Daniels payment to the situation that led to charges against former presidential candidate John Edwards.
Such charges wouldn’t put Trump’s administration in jeopardy, Turley said, but they are reasons for the president to remain concerned until the investigation reaches its conclusion.
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