Prosecutors in Manhattan have opened up a new line of investigations into the Trump Organization that could eventually lead them to conclude that president's family business is a criminal enterprise.
A grand jury in the Southern District of New York has subpoenaed records related to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, and former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the widening scope of the investigation reminds her of a political figure she once prosecuted.
"It is impossible to know exactly what the federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating, but the wide array of crimes brings to mind a case that was prosecuted in Detroit when I served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan," McQuade wrote for The Daily Beast. "Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and several of his associates were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO."
The new subpoena shows prosecutors are currently investigating Trump and his associates for possible conspiracy against the United States, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and violations of campaign finance and inaugural committee laws, McQuade said.
The breadth and scope of the alleged crimes could bring into play the RICO statute, which was passed in 1970 to prosecute organized mob bosses for crimes committed by their underlings.
"Congress enacted RICO, which, among other things, makes it a crime for any person associated with an enterprise to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of the enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, McQuade said.
That pattern of racketeering activity is defined as two or more acts from a list of criminal offenses -- which include some of the crimes prosecutors looking at with Trump.
"I have been asked before about whether the special counsel’s investigation could result in RICO charges, and I have thought that RICO was a bridge too far," McQuade said.
She said the crimes special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating wouldn't seem to apply to the RICO statute, but McQuade said the SDNY investigations of the Trump Organization and the inaugural committee very well could fall under that.
"Either one of those Trump entities could potentially be considered an 'enterprise' for purposes of a RICO charge, if the evidence supported it," McQuade said. "So, too, could a collection of Trump and his associates be considered an association, in fact, just as Kilpatrick and his associates formed the Kilpatrick Enterprise. The types of crimes that are being investigated – mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering – are all crimes listed in the RICO statute as eligible predicate offenses that can constitute a pattern of racketeering activity."