With one lawsuit, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood managed to get the Donald J. Trump Foundation shut down. And that’s not all she was able to accomplish. In addition to the shuttering of the Trump Foundation, Trump will have to give away any remaining funds in the foundation account. Oh, and Underwood is also seeking $2.8 in restitution from the Trump family foundation.
But here’s the much larger precedent that was set by the lawsuit Underwood filed: The assets of a Trump entity have to be sold because of criminal acts committed by that entity. And that may well provide a tempting road map for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
It has long been a principle of criminal law that assets which were gained as a result of illegal acts can be forfeited to the government, and the government doesn’t even have to prove a crime occurred. There can merely be a “suspicion” of criminal activity.
So here’s the question of the day: Would Robert Mueller try to seize Trump and the Trump Organization’s assets on suspicion of a crimes such as money laundering or fraud?
Before you answer, consider that Mueller has already used forfeiture against a member of Trump’s 2016 campaign, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. As New York magazine reported in September:
“Manafort will forfeit many of his assets as part of the deal, including money in several bank accounts, an apartment in Trump Tower, and one in downtown Manhattan; worth about $46 million, these assets single-handedly cover the cost of the Mueller investigation.”
It’s also important to know that the standard for demanding asset forfeiture doesn’t require a high burden of proof. A prosecutor — the New York Attorney General or Robert Mueller — need only show that money came from illegal sources or activities, and suddenly Trump and his family would be penniless, unable to access their bank accounts or other sources of income. They’d be flat broke and under criminal investigation. And most attorneys don’t work for free.
Considering that Donald Trump is suspected of a panoply of crimes, it’s a safe bet that at some point a prosecutor is going to target Trump at his weakest point: His money.