For months now, there’s be a sort of inside parlor game among many legal experts who wonder exactly what crimes Special Counsel Robert Mueller might charge President Trump with. Among the suggestions:
- Obstruction of justice
- Money laundering
But how best to get at the president? For that, Mueller appears to be relying heavily on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in order to compel Trump associates to testify against their boss or face decades in prison.
As NPR reports:
“The law intended to shine a light on foreign entities and foreign governments working to influence policy in Washington, D.C., has been called everything from ‘toothless’ to ‘a complete joke.’
But Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t laughing — and neither may potential violators if he decides to make it his new weapon of choice.”
Here’s how FARA works: It requires Americans who do any work on behalf of foreign governments, foreign political parties, or any person or organization outside the U.S., “to disclose exactly who is paying them to do what.”
University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck had this to say about FARA:
“It’s a statute designed to bring out into the sunlight the coordination between foreign actors, foreign governments, foreign corporations, foreign private citizens and those in the United States who are pushing for particular policy changes. The idea [was] not that these policy changes are per se problematic, but that when a foreign interest is the one funding, calling the shots, pushing for some kind of change to domestic policy, the American people and American policymakers have a right to know.”
As for who could be most at risk under the FARA statutes, look no further than Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn, all of whom accepted money from countries that range from Russia and Ukraine to Turkey.
Since there’s very little case-law on FARA — from 1966 to 2017, the Justice Department sought just sevenprosecutions under FARA — defense attorneys who represent those charged with violations of the law could be entering a minefield as they attempt to protect their clients.
So while Mueller and his team of legal experts continue to investigate who had illegal contacts with Russia, it appears that they are still heeding the lesson learned from Watergate: Follow the money.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org