While most of the attention over the past couple of years has been focused on the investigation into the 2016 election being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it’s starting to look like the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) will be the team of prosecutors that winds up causing the greatest legal headache for President Donald Trump.
Just this week, the SDNY issued subpoenas related to the 2016 Trump inaugural committee. Among the crimes mentioned in the subpoenas were conspiracy against the United States, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and violations of campaign finance and inaugural committee laws. CNN is even reporting that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are interested in speaking with executives from the Trump Organization.
And those crimes, former U.S Attorney Joyce Vance notes in an article she wrote for The Daily Beast, suggest the SDNY is looking to charge Trump’s company under the racketeering statutes found in federal law. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO, she explains:
“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.
“The penalties for violating RICO are heavy–up to 20 years in prison and forfeiture of the proceeds of the racketeering activity.”
Translation: Donald Trump and other top executives in the Trump Organization (i.e. Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka) would be facing 20 years in prison and the entire company could be seized by the feds and sold, with the proceeds going to the government in recompense for the crimes committed.
In the past, Vance goes on to note, she was skeptical when legal experts raised RICO in connection with Trump or his company, but the SDNY subpoenas have changed her mind:
“Now that the Trump inaugural committee or the Trump Organization may be targets of SDNY’s investigation, however, the theory does not seem so far-fetched. Either one of those Trump entities could potentially be considered an “enterprise” for purposes of a RICO charge, if the evidence supported it.”
And while it may not be possible to indict a sitting president, Vance concludes, that restriction doesn’t apply to his company:
“Even if SDNY follows the Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, nothing prohibits the Trump Organization or Trump’s associates from being indicted.”
Imagine it for a second: Trump leaves office flat broke. His company has been seized and sold off, with the funds going to the U.S. Treasury. And once he’s no longer president, he too can be indicted, tried, and placed in prison.
So if Trump thought things were bad with Mueller on his trail, they just got much worse thanks to the SDNY.