A variety of legal experts broke down the investigation into the Trump inauguration — which they agreed appeared to be “a giant fraud scheme.”
Federal authorities are investigating the $107 million in contributions to the inauguration committee, and where those funds went, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked whether the payments themselves could be illegal.
“There’s a couple different ways it could be illegal,” said former assistant U.S. Attorney Mimi Rocah. “Right now we’re finding out the facts. One is, if it’s from a foreign donor, you cannot have foreign donations. Putting that aside, even if we’re talking about domestic donors, they cannot donate with the promise that they’re going to get an official act done by the elected official in exchange — so that would be bribery.”
Rocah admitted that would be incredibly difficult for prosecutors to prove, but she said the payments and expenditures could potentially violate other, more easily proven laws.
“There are tax issues,” she said. “The way the money seems to have been spent here with (some of it) going back to a Trump-owned property. We don’t know how it was dispersed. There’s potential money laundering.”
The panelists agreed that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior White House adviser, faces significant legal jeopardy in the investigation.
“There are emoluments here,” said Richard Painter, the former White House ethics czar under George W. Bush. “That’s a constitutional term for profit and benefit that are coming in to this presidential inaugural committee illegally from foreign governments, including some Middle Eastern governments that want to have influence over the United States so they can kill as many journalists as they wanted and do whatever they want and get away with it.”
He said the payments and how they were dispersed raised a slew of ethics concerns, as well as show evidence of criminal violations.
“It can be a serious crime, it’s basically embezzlement — you’re taking too much out,” Painter said. “It’s like taking money out of the church collection plate. People go to jail for this.”
“I would not be surprised to see some people indicted with respect to the money coming into the presidential inaugural committee and the money going out,” he added. “It’s about time some people go to the slammer for this kind of thing — it’s ridiculous.”
Elie Mystal, executive editor of Above The Law, said the inauguration probe could eventually topple President Donald Trump by targeting his eldest daughter.
“Do you remember in ‘The Firm,’ how Tom Cruise brings down the entire mob on overbilling?” Mystal said. “Here we have Ivanka Trump as part of the Trump Organization overbilling the inaugural committee.”
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have been mentioned in relation to other aspects of the widening investigations into the president, but Mystal said Ivanka Trump was different.
“Ivanka in the crosshairs,” Mystal said. “She reportedly was involved in overcharging the inaugural committee and somebody had to tell her this will look bad if we get audited. For a long time I thought the only way to get to Trump is if you go after the kids. If you put the kids in legal peril, that will shock him out of his lying, legal cocoon.”