Why Trump’s criminality should impact your vote.
In the final days of the 2016 election, then-candidate Trump argued that people should vote for him because Hillary had ongoing criminal investigations which would result in “an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis.” In a November 4th speech, he ardently claimed, “She’ll be under investigation for years. She’ll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work.”
As an attorney and former prosecutor, I believe “innocent until proven guilty” is sacrosanct, the underpinning of our entire criminal justice system. But the goal here is not to prove his guilt, convict or sentence him. After all, Trump himself has shown that innocent until proven guilty is a legal distinction. In the court of public opinion — in the gauntlet of politics — assessing a candidate’s potential criminality is not only fair game but a responsibility. Accordingly, below are descriptions of some of the real-life crimes in which Trump has been implicated or accused, the associated statutes, and the potential penalty for each. Taken together, the crimes listed below represent more than 100 years in prison.
· Campaign Finance Law Violations. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was convicted of violating campaign finance law for making hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal at Trump’s behest. Separately, recent reporting of Trump’s financial documents shows a $21 million business expense tax deduction from “Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing” that may have led to an illegal $10 million contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Relevant Statute: 52 U.S.C. 301 — Penalty: up to five (5) years imprisonment for each count.
· Coercion of Political Activity. It is illegal to coerce an employee of the federal government to participate in political activity. During the Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry, witnesses testified that Trump compelled multiple federal employees, including Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor, to engage in activity aimed at getting dirt on Trump’s potential political rival.
Relevant Statute: 18 U.S.C § 610 — Penalty: up to three (3) years imprisonment for each count.
· Refusal of Witness to Testify or Produce Papers. During the Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry, Trump famously refused to comply with lawful Congressional subpoenas.
Relevant Statute: 2 U.S.C. § 192 — Penalty: up to one (1) year imprisonment for each count.
· Extortion by Officers or Employees of the United States. Threatening another country’s military aid unless that country provides something of personal value to the President — in this case, dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden — is arguably itself a violation of federal law.
Relevant Statute: 18 U.S.C. § 872 — Penalty: up to three (3) years imprisonment.
· Tax Evasion. Trump is currently being investigated by the New York Attorney General’s Office for inflating the value of his assets on annual financial statements “in order to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.” The investigation is focused on potential tax evasion and bank fraud related to a number of Trumps’ properties, including a business tax deduction for his family’s vacation home at the Seven Springs Estate and failing to report more than $100 million in debt forgiveness forTrump Tower in Chicago.
· Tax Fraud, Bank Fraud, and Insurance Fraud. Recent court filings by the New York County District Attorney’s Office revealed that a Grand Jury is currently investigating Trump for bank fraud and insurance fraud. It is further believed that Trump is being investigated for tax fraud based on facts revealed during the Michael Cohen trial.
· Obstruction of Justice. The Special Counsel’s Investigation specifically did not clear Trump of Obstruction of Justice charges. Notably, Footnote 1091 of the Mueller Report suggested that, once Trump is no longer President, he may be brought up on Obstruction of Justice charges for such acts as attempting to fire the Special Counsel through lawyer Don McGahn, attempting to influence the cooperation of witnesses, and pressuring James Comey to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn.
Relevant statute: 18 U.S.C. § 1505 — Penalty: up to five (5) years imprisonment.
This is to say nothing of the corroborated allegation of rape from E. Jean Carrol or the allegations of sexual misconduct/forcible touching from nineteen (19) different women, as the statute of limitations for these sex crimes has expired.
The existence of such publicly-available evidence, allegations, and investigations does not guarantee that prosecutors would bring charges, nor does it guarantee that they would prove the elements of each crime. But if a fraction of the crimes above were proven — the way they were for eight of his closest associates — then Trump could face dozens of years of incarceration when no longer in the Oval Office.
The unironically self-proclaimed “law and order candidate” is implicated in more criminal activity than any other president in American history, including Richard Nixon. Of course, it remains possible that Trump is ultimately found innocent of criminality. But it’s important for us to remember when casting our vote that he could be under investigation for years, and our country, we have to get back to work.