POLITICS
09/02/2018 06:48 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2018

It’s Not Just Robert Mueller. President Donald Trump Faces 7 Separate Investigations And Lawsuits.

Prosecutors are digging into the president’s business from which he refused to divest.
Illustration: HuffPost Photo: Getty Images

There’s hardly been a day this summer in which President Donald Trump didn’t turn to Twitter to vent his frustration with what the president calls the “RIGGED WITCH HUNT” ― the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But as the president’s animosity for the special counsel ramps up, the Mueller probe is hardly the only investigation the president has to worry about.

There are currently six separate investigations into Trump and his associates from four different investigative bodies. An additional lawsuit brought by two state attorneys general challenges whether Trump is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. There are further reports about probes into the financial dealings of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his second eldest son, Eric Trump.

Here’s your guide to the latest probes, indictments, cooperating witnesses and potential targets:

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller Probes Russian Conspiracy 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller ― the second-longest-serving FBI director in history ― in May 2017 as special counsel to take control of the investigation into whether Trump, his campaign, his business and his other associates conspired to work with Russian hackers to influence the 2016 election. Mueller is reportedly also probing whether Trump obstructed justice.  

The Russia Connection 

The FBI had been investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign since July 2016. In 2016, Russian hackers allegedly broke into the Democratic Party’s servers and gained access to the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They stole emails and documents and provided them to WikiLeaks, which then strategically leaked the documents at times inopportune for the Clinton campaign and opportune for the Trump campaign. Trump publicly called on Russian hackers to steal more documents to help his campaign on July 27, 2016. A few hours later, hackers made their first, ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break into Clinton’s private email server.

It was and remains an open question to what extent Trump and his campaign knew about this effort, to what extent they sought to obtain this information and whether there was any direct involvement in the release of the hacked emails and documents. 

There are also questions surrounding a June 9 meeting in Trump Tower between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnistkaya, Donald Trump, Jr. ― the president’s eldest son ― then-campaign chair Paul Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to receive what they were told would be “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”  

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Roger Stone, Trump’s former political consigliere and an ex-lobbyist who worked with Manafort, is also in Mueller’s sights. Stone was known to have been in contact with both Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and Guccifer 2.0, the false online persona of the Russian hackers who infiltrated the Democratic Party, during the 2016 campaign. He was also openly involved in a disinformation campaign through a super PAC that spent money to publicize a false narrative that Democrats would steal the election. The special counsel’s office has already questioned or sought testimony from numerous Stone associates including Sam Nunberg, Ted Malloch, Kristen Davis and John Kakanis. Mueller is also attempting to obtain the testimony of Stone aide Andrew Miller, but Miller is refusing to comply and is challenging the constitutionality of the entire Mueller investigation. Randy Credico, a perennial political candidate and comedian who reportedly acted as a go-between for Stone and Assange, is scheduled to testify on Sept. 7. 

Mueller is also investigating the potential role Erik Prince, the infamous private military contractor, played in establishing a back channel to the Russian government for the incoming Trump administration. Prince reportedly met with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, in the Seychelles after Trump’s election. The meeting was facilitated by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates and George Nader, the crown prince’s adviser. Prince claims the Seychelles meeting with Dmitriev was a chance encounter. Nader is cooperating with Mueller.  

The special counsel’s team has also sought information on the Trump campaign’s digital efforts, including from the now-defunct British data company Cambridge Analytica, and the possible donation of funds to Trump’s campaign and inauguration from Russian or other foreign donors. 

Obstruction Of Justice 

The obstruction of justice investigation is reportedly zeroing in on Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he was thinking about the FBI investigation into the ties between his campaign and Russia when he fired Comey.  

Mueller is also looking into Trump’s role in drafting a misleading statement for his son Donald Trump, Jr. that aimed to cover-up the true purpose of the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower. 

The Balance So Far  

Mueller has reached guilty plea deals with ex-Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates and obtained a guilty conviction for Manafort on eight counts. (Mueller handed off investigations into the other foreign lobbyists who worked with Manafort ― Tony Podesta, Vin Weber and Greg Craig ― to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.) So far, none of these pleas or convictions prove that the Trump campaign conspired with a foreign government to influence the presidential election. 

Mueller has also indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for running an extensive propaganda campaign on social media sites and another 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in hacking the DNC and John Podesta’s email. Richard Pinedo, an American businessman, pleaded guilty to selling bank numbers to the Russian social media trolls. Additionally, the special counsel indicted Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort associate, for allegedly obstructing justice by tampering with witnesses in Manafort’s case. Another Manafort associate, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty to lying under oath in relation to Manafort’s case. 

U.S. Attorney for the SDNY Geoffrey Berman Probes Michael Cohen For Tax Evasion, Fraud, Campaign Finance Violations 

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on Aug. 21 pleaded guilty to six charges of tax evasion and bank fraud and two charges of violating campaign finance laws. The campaign finance charges implicate Trump in potential felony violations of the law

In court, Cohen stated that Trump directed him to pay off two alleged Trump mistresses, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, because their allegations endangered his presidential campaign and that these payments constituted illegal in-kind campaign contributions.

U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.
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U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.

Cohen also detailed his collaboration with longtime Trump friend and American Media Inc. chief executive David Pecker. Pecker connected with Cohen to strike a deal that would give the Trump campaign a heads up if his reporters encountered information that could be damaging to Trump and his presidential bid, Cohen claimed. And it was Pecker who alerted Cohen to McDougal’s allegation that she had an affair with Trump from 2006-07, according to court documents. Cohen encouraged Pecker to purchase McDougal’s story and never publish. McDougal received $150,000 from American Media, the parent corporation of National Enquirer, in August 2016.  

Pecker became aware that Daniels was looking to sell her story about her affair with Trump in October 2016 and alerted Cohen. Cohen then paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to buy the rights to Daniels’ story and to prevent its publication. He was reimbursed by a mix of funds from the Trump Organization and Trump himself. Cohen’s plea stated that Trump was aware of and personally directed this effort to protect and help his own presidential campaign. 

In order to verify Cohen’s version of events, prosecutors have provided immunity to a number of people alluded to in the plea agreement who could have faced criminal exposure: Pecker, National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.  

Weisselberg is one of Trump’s closest financial advisers and was named to run The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust ― which owns the Trump Organization and all other business entities connected to Trump ― with Trump’s two eldest sons when Trump assumed the presidency. Pecker is believed to have purchased numerous unflattering stories about Trump over the years to prevent their disclosure. 

It is not presently clear whether the immunity deals for Pecker and Weisselberg extend beyond simply affirming the facts of the felony crimes that Cohen admitted to in court. Even if they solely back up those facts, their testimony would provide a further basis to believe that Trump was involved in those felony campaign finance violations. 

Cohen’s plea deal also contains allegations that he was in contact with members of Trump’s presidential campaign about the payments. The identity of these campaign staffers is not yet publicly known. 

New York Attorney General Investigates Trump Foundation, Trump Campaign and Cohen For Campaign Finance Laws, Fraud 

On June 14, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a criminal lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation alleging the charitable nonprofit engaged in a pattern of illegal activity including self-dealing to personally benefit Trump and illegal coordination with Trump’s presidential campaign. The suit comes after a two-year investigation into the operations of the foundation. The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the foundation, ban Trump from serving on any nonprofit boards for 10 years and his three children who served on the foundation’s board, Don, Jr., Ivanka and Eric, from serving on nonprofit boards for one year each, and restitution of $2.8 million and additional penalties. 

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood.
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New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood.

“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement when the suit was filed. 

Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, directed payments from the foundation to benefit Trump’s campaign in the Iowa caucus in 2016, according to the lawsuit. Trump used the foundation to purchase a self-portrait to hang at one of his golf courses. He also used the foundation’s money to settle legal claims made against his properties.  

Underwood’s office is undertaking this investigation in coordination with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The department on Wednesday subpoenaed Cohen to turn over documents and testify about the foundation’s finances.  

NYAG Underwood and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Investigates Michael Cohen For Tax Fraud 

In addition to her investigation into the Trump Foundation, Underwood sought a criminal referral from the Department of Taxation and Finance to pursue a criminal investigation into Cohen for breaking state tax laws. This presents another opportunity for prosecutors to pry into Trump’s finances through his former personal fixer and lawyer.

Maryland Attorney General And District of Columbia Attorney General Sue Trump For Emoluments Clause Violation

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine sued Trump and his company alleging that his ownership of a hotel in D.C. puts the president in direct violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. This clause forbids government officials, including the president, from receiving payments, gifts or benefits from foreign governments and national and state government entities. It was enacted to specifically insulate the federal government from corruption by foreign governments and from any individual U.S. state government.

Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
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Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump could be in violation of the clause as his Trump International Hotel in D.C. occupies the Old Post Office building, a structure owned by the federal government and leased to Trump’s business. In addition, the hotel has received payments from foreign governments seeking to influence the president’s policies.

While technically not a criminal investigation, the lawsuit will result in the disclosure of important documents showing how foreign governments are using Trump’s properties to gain influence in his administration. It could ultimately result in forcing the president to divest from his business or the federal government to cancel its lease with the Trump Organization to operate the D.C. hotel, lest they are in violation of the Constitution.

A federal judge ruled on July 25 that the Emoluments Clause applies to the Office of the President and that the payments and benefits Trump receives through his hotel from foreign and domestic governments could very well be a violation of the clause ― and therefore the Constitution. Frosh and Racine were able to demand the Trump Organization hand over documents related to foreign government payments to the company in the wake of the decision.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Potential Investigation Into Trump Organization For Fraud

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two company officials for the reimbursement to Cohen, according to The New York Times.

This appears to be an opening salvo by New York state prosecutors into investigating the many potential criminal violations of the president’s business.

There have been many allegations of money laundering through his company over the years. Reporters have raised questions about the large number of wealthy foreigners, particularly from Russia and former Soviet states, who have purchased real estate in his properties. (U.S. real estate is a favorite money laundering location for the global rich as it is easy to invest in anonymously.)

No one knows where Trump got the money to fund the purchase of his Scottish golf course. The Trump Organization may have laundered money from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its failed bid to build a Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, Adam Davidson reported in The New Yorker. The Azerbaijan deal was dropped along with separate deals in Georgia and Brazil during the time after Trump was elected but before he took office. The president’s partners in Brazil had fallen under investigation for corruption while the deals in Azerbaijan and Georgia would not withstand any extended media scrutiny.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance
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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance

New York State Department Of Taxation Investigates Trump Over Allegations He And His Father Committed Decades Of Tax Fraud

The New York State Department of Taxation has opened an investigation into potential tax fraud committed by Trump and his long-deceased father, Fred Trump, after a blockbuster New York Times investigation revealed the president engaged in “dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.”

Trump received $413 million from his father over the course of his life, helping him build his business and personal brand, according to the Times. The transfer of this huge sum of money was done by skirting tax laws, disguising large monetary gifts, taking improper tax deductions and undervaluing properties in official tax documents.

“The tax department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” a statement from the taxation department said.

The worst may be yet to come for Trump. The Democratic nominee for New York attorney general Tish James promised to investigate the president if she wins election in November.

“The president of the United States has to worry about three things: Mueller, Cohen and Tish James,” she told Yahoo News in August.

Democrats also have compiled a massive list of subpoenas they hope to file targeting the Trump administration and the Trump Organization if they win control of the House of Representatives in November. They have also promised to get Trump’s tax returns.

The number of investigations into the president could easily ― and quickly ― metastasize to more than seven.

This piece has been updated to reflect the investigation launched on Oct. 2 by the New York State Department of Taxation and the result of the Democratic Party primary election for New York attorney general.

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