本帖由 ccc 于 2017-07-24 发布。版面名称：渥太华华人论坛
Trump Russia: Six potential legal problems for the president
Anthony Zurcher North America reporter
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Investigations into Donald Trump's election-eve hush money payments and any possible ties between his presidential campaign and Russia have been dominating headlines. But there are other legal woes too.
In New York and Washington, the list of inquiries into the Trump world are expanding - any of which could produce serious headaches for the president.
Here's a look at the latest collection of eyeballs scrutinising the president - and what it all could mean.
1. The presidential inauguration cash
On Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported that the committee in charge of Mr Trump's 2017 presidential inauguration has come under federal criminal investigation.
The committee raised in a record $107m (£85m) in donations, including $14m from donors who worked for securities and investment companies and nearly $10m from those with real-estate industry ties.
The total is nearly double the amount of the previous record for inaugural fundraising, set by Barack Obama in 2009.
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Donald Trump's inauguration shattered a fundraising record - and has raised questions
The probe will look into how that inaugural money was spent and whether contributors sought to gain access to the new administration.
A ProPublica report on Friday detailed concerns by a "top inaugural planner" that the Trump International Hotel in Washington was overcharging the inaugural committee for rooms, meals and facilities, which could be a violation of tax law.
The US attorney's office in Southern Manhattan is handling the inquiry - the same team involved in the various Cohen investigations.
According to the Journal, this new investigation was prompted, in part, by evidence unearthed by federal agents when they raided Cohen's offices in April.
Presidential exposure: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "this doesn't have anything to do with the president or the first lady" when asked about the Wall Street Journal report. That may be the case, but some of the president's closest friends and associates - and his daughter, Ivanka - were deeply involved in the inaugural planning.
2. Foreign influence
The central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is to uncover any ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, but according to recent reports the inquiry may have expanded to include connections to other countries.
A Daily Beast article reported that "phase two" of the special counsel's investigation will begin early in the next year and include court filings - and possible indictments - outlining connections between the Trump campaign and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The New York Times also tied this news to the inauguration investigation, noting that federal investigators in New York are looking into whether any foreigners illegally made donations to the inaugural committee. Mr Mueller's team is also reportedly scrutinising a pro-Trump group to see if it received contributions from overseas during the 2016 campaign.
Saudi Arabia and UAE were once again mentioned, as was Qatar.
The president has called the entire Mueller investigation a "witch hunt" and is sure to vehemently object to any expansion of the probe.
Presidential exposure: Mr Trump has been more than accommodating toward Saudi Arabia as president - making the nation his first foreign visit, siding with it in a dispute with Qatar and offering a forceful defence of Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi's murder. The special counsel's office could be doing more than just wondering why.
3. Trump hotel
Shortly after being elected president, Mr Trump announced that his businesses would donate all income derived from foreign governments to the US Treasury.
In March the Trump Organization donated $151,470 in profits from foreign governments accrued during 2017 - although it offered no further details.
This procedure was designed to avoid running afoul of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution, which prohibits federal officials from receiving gifts or payments from foreign rulers or representatives.
Although the president's lawyers said such donations were not required, Mr Trump pledged to do so "to eliminate any distractions by going beyond what the Constitution requires".
In June, however, attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland sued Mr Trump, alleging that the president is continuing to profit from foreign government spending at his properties - particularly his eponymous hotel just blocks from the White House in Washington, DC.
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A lawsuit alleges Donald Trump is improperly profiting from foreign business to his Washington, DC hotel
A similar legal challenge was dismissed, and a third - filed by Democratic lawmakers - is also winding its way through the court system.
So much for no distractions.
Since the Maryland/DC lawsuit was filed, Mr Trump's lawyers have tried to block it from proceeding, setting up what could be the first in a series of legal decisions on the breadth of the Emoluments Clause.
Last week, however, the judge overseeing the case allowed DC and Maryland to issue 30 subpoenas for business records from the Trump organisation and affiliated groups - an evidence gathering process that will continue until August 2019.
Presidential exposure: The case could end up being a ticking political time bomb that reveals embarrassing details about the president's business empire just as his presidential re-election campaign is kicking into gear.
4. Trump Foundation
In addition to the ongoing federal probes of the president and his interests, New York state investigators are conducting a review of the president's charitable foundation.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has alleged that the Trump Foundation effectively served as means to advance the president's political and business interests in violation of state laws governing the tax-free status of charitable organisations. The president, in response, called the investigation the work of "sleazy New York Democrats" and lauded his charity for giving out more than $19m.
Mr Trump's lawyers attempted to have the case dismissed, but in late November a New York judge ruled that the allegations "sufficiently support a claim that Mr Trump intentionally used foundation assets for his private interests knowing that it may not be in the foundation's best interests".
During the 2016 campaign, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold detailed how Mr Trump used money from his charitable foundation - funded in large part by contributions from friends and associates - to settle business lawsuits and make donations to build support for his presidential bid.
Presidential exposure: New York is seeking nearly $3m in restitution, additional financial penalties, a 10-year ban on Mr Trump serving as the head of any New York non-profit organisations and a one-year ban for his three oldest children, Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr.
5. Hush-money payments
These four areas of potential legal jeopardy have not consumed a fraction of the attention that two other subjects have commanded.
On Wednesday Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, explained how he helped arrange payments to two women who were poised to talk about their sexual relationships with Mr Trump during the election campaign.
As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in New York, he admitted charges of campaign-finance law violations.
In court filings and subsequent statements he has said he was acting at the direction of Mr Trump himself - something the president has vehemently denied.
Presidential exposure: Mr Trump has been directly implicated in a campaign finance violation - one of several charges for which his long-time personal attorney has received a prison sentence. The National Enquirer, which facilitated one of the payments, corroborates Cohen's account. This is serious business.
6. Russian interference
Meanwhile Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and possible ties to the Trump campaign, grinds on.
Mr Cohen has helped with that inquiry as well, recently asserting that negotiations on a proposed multimillion-dollar Trump real estate venture in Moscow continued well into the presidential election season and included contacts with Russian officials.
The special counsel's office, in court filings involving the sentencing of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, has also revealed the existence of a previously undisclosed criminal probe and continued extensive Russia-related efforts.
President Trump has maintained there was no collusion with Russia and dismissed the investigation as a Democratic conspiracy.
Presidential exposure: Multiple individuals involved with the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians at the same time as the Russian government has been accused of engaging in cyber-warfare to support Mr Trump's presidential candidacy. Was there collusion? If so, did it involve the president? These are the fundamental questions Mr Mueller was hired to answer. Everything else is window dressing.
(CNN) Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spent his Sunday "defending" Donald Trump and "advocating" for the President's innocence as it relates to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
He did an extremely poor job of it -- creating any number of problematic storylines for the President, including an acknowledgment that Trump's team had conversations with Russians about a business venture in Moscow far longer into the 2016 election than had been previously known.
But this exchange -- between Giuliani and ABC's George Stephanopoulos -- really took the cake for me. It begins with Giuliani bashing former Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, who is now a cooperating witness in the probe, as a liar:
GIULIANI: "And the Southern District says you can get out of jail if you do this, you've got three years now. There's a real motivation to sing like crazy. He's got to do a lot of singing to get out of the three years and he will say whatever he has to say. He's changed his story four or five times."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "So has the President."
GIULIANI: "The President's not under oath. And the President tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world."
This doesn't work on so many levels.
Let's start with the fact that Giuliani is admitting that Trump lied. Repeatedly. And that it's all OK because he wasn't under oath. Uh, what? This is the President of the United States we are talking about. Making a legalistic argument -- he didn't lie when there was a criminal penalty for doing so! -- isn't exactly a good pushback on the idea that Trump has a problem telling the truth.
Think of it this way: Giuliani is, in essence, arguing that Trump's lies don't matter because he didn't say them under oath. And that, presumably, if/when he was under oath, Trump would tell the truth -- and that truth would be different than all of the false things he has said publicly.
Which is, um, a remarkable thing.
Then there's this: Wouldn't Cohen be incentivized to tell the truth given that he has been under oath -- several times -- in this process? Isn't the threat of a more severe criminal punishment a likely disincentive for Cohen to lie? And isn't it also true that Trump doesn't have that same disincentive to lie? Lying to the media or your supporters might carry some sort of political penalty. But it doesn't hold any legal penalty. Trump can say almost anything, as long as he isn't under oath, and get away with it.
Again, take it out of the Trump, and even politics, context. Pretend your life depends, literally, on someone answering a single question truthfully. Would you rather have that person be under oath when giving you their answer or no? Obviously, you would prefer the under-oath version because, well, actions having consequences tends to bring out the truth.
And last but certainly not least is Giuliani's explanation for why Trump has not told the truth so many times. He did "the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world." So because Trump was running for the nation's highest office, he can't possibly be expected to remember -- or recollect truthfully -- what happened during the campaign? Because he was super busy?!
But Giuliani is asking for even more than that. He's saying that not only should no one blame Trump for, uh, misremembering events surrounding, among other things, payoffs to two women alleging they had affairs with him, but also that the conclusions reached by federal prosecutors that Trump directed and coordinated these payments should be discounted.
Remember: This is not, despite what Giuliani is trying to do, ultimately a he-said, he-said battle between Trump and Cohen. Yes, Cohen said, under oath, that Trump directed and coordinated the payouts. But the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York didn't just take his word for it! They knew -- like we know -- that Cohen has a history of not telling the truth. They corroborated his charges and found them to be accurate. So this is about a federal prosecutor vs. the President. Not Michael Cohen.
Like I said: There's a lot wrong with what Giuliani told Stephanopoulos. A lot.
more ... https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/18/poli...ter-of-intent-rudy-giuliani-moscow/index.html
(CNN) Rudy Giuliani just can't seem to get his facts straight.
On Sunday, during one of a series of appearances in which he defended President Donald Trump against the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Giuliani was very clear that while a letter of intent had been created regarding Trump's desire to build Trump Tower Moscow, the President himself had never signed it.
"It was a real estate project," Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash on Sunday. "There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it."
Turns out, he had! CNN's Chris Cuomo got his hands on the actual letter of intent -- dated October 28, 2015 -- that had Trump's easily recognizable signature affixed to the bottom.
On Wednesday night, Giuliani admitted he was incorrect about the letter of intent.
"I was wrong if I said it," he told CNN. "I haven't seen the quote, but I probably meant to say there was never a deal, much less a signed one."
If this was an isolated incident, it would still be bad. But it's not even close to an isolated incident for Giuliani. Since becoming the lead spokesman for Trump's legal team back in April, the former mayor of New York City has made any number of misstatements, accidental reveals and other gaffes that have made the water in which Trump finds himself considerably hotter.
In May, Giuliani acknowledged -- contra Trump -- that the President had paid back Michael Cohen for the hush payment to ensure the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in the mid 2000s, was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep silent in the run-up to the 2016 election. We later learned that, according to federal prosecutors, Trump directed and coordinated that payment and another to Playboy model Karen McDougal, despite the fact that he has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the payouts.
In June, Giuliani said that first lady Melania Trump "believes her husband" and "knows [Daniels' allegations are] untrue." Asked for comment about that assertion, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump said this: "I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani."
In August, Giuliani told CNN's Jake Tapper that Trump denied ever having a conversation with then-FBI Director James Comey about former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Except that in July, Giuliani appeared to acknowledge the two men had met -- disputing only whether or not Trump asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.
This past Sunday, Giuliani said on ABC that in the answers provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump said that conversations with the Russians about the idea of a Trump Tower Moscow project might have continued through November 2016. "According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to November of -- covered all the way up to November 2016," said Giuliani. "Said he had conversations with him -- but the President didn't hide this." Uh, what? One of the things that Cohen had pleaded guilty to is lying about the depth and length of his conversations with Russians involved in the potential Trump Tower Moscow project. Cohen initially said, under oath, that conversations had ceased in January 2016 but had now acknowledged they continued through June 2016. And now Giuliani is floating the possibility that the discussions continued until Trump was elected President?
I mean, come on man!
It's hard to look at that record of botches and biffs and make the case that Giuliani has helped Trump more as it relates to the Russia probe than he has hurt him. And don't forget that Giuliani was initially brought into Trump's legal team because of his past relationship with Mueller -- and the belief that that relationship could bring the investigation to a quick and positive (for Trump) end. That, uh, hasn't happened -- and Giuliani has totally turned on Mueller.
"Wow big crime for a SPECIAL WHATEVER maybe a group of Angry Bitter Hillary Supporters who are justifying themselves by the goal justifies the means," Giuliani texted a Politico reporter recently.
So, what is Giuliani's ongoing appeal to Trump?
The most obvious answer is that Giuliani and Trump have known each other for a very long time and Trump thinks that the former mayor is someone on his level (a major political figure) who he can trust to always be loyal. Trump's loyalty is a mercurial thing -- like the rest of him -- and could dissipate or disappear at any moment. Paging Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price etc. etc. etc.
Then there is the fact that while he keeps putting his foot in his mouth Giuliani is, in the main, still singing from the Trump songbook: No collusion, witch hunt, Mueller's got nothing. Trump likes when people go on TV and parrot his thinking -- and Giuliani does that, for the most part.
Still, it's hard to imagine that if someone just took the examples of Giuliani contradicting and/or undercutting Trump's Russia story over the past eight months and put it in front of the President, he wouldn't be very annoyed with the damage Giuliani has done.
It's significant -- legally and politically. And it's not going away.
But it was Judge Emmet Sullivan who had the most interesting things to say. Prosecutors had asked for Flynn to be spared prison time because he helped with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. But the judge seemed sickened by what Flynn did. "I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense," he told Flynn. Sullivan, who had been praised by Trump supporters, such as Fox News' Jeanine Pirro, was implacable. Sullivan walked back his question of whether Flynn had committed treason but noted that "a high-ranking official of the government" making false statements in the White House is a "very serious offense."
That brings to mind another high-ranking official who has made false statements while in the White House: the President. In the end, the sentencing was postponed, allowing Flynn to help prosecutors even more as they work to tighten their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, America was hit with another splash of news about possible corruption by Trump and company. The Donald J. Trump Foundation, the President's purported charitable vehicle, agreed to shut down as part of an investigation by New York state. The agreement allows a lawsuit against the foundation to move forward, claiming, among other things, that Trump and three of his children violated campaign finance laws, and casting an indelible stain on the President. Trump has denied these allegations.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood wrote of "a shocking pattern of illegality" at the foundation, "including unlawful coordination" with Trump's campaign. The foundation, she said, functioned as "little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his business to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality." Incredibly, this damning conclusion is the least of the Trumps' problems.
It's hardly surprising that the walls are closing in around the President. What is mind-boggling is just how many walls are coming in at him from every imaginable angle.
We don't know precisely what Flynn, who among other things lied about meetings with Russian officials, told investigators. But we know that Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to committing a felony in coordination with the President (Individual-1) and revealed that Trump was negotiating with Russia about building a Trump Tower Moscow. Thanks to Trump's current lawyer, a hapless Rudy Giuliani, we know the negotiations might have continued all the way to November 2016.
Is that the stench of collusion in the air? A key question is whether Trump knowingly offered to lift US sanctions against Russia in exchange for the Kremlin's favors. There is evidence that sanctions were discussed in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. If Mueller provides evidence that Trump offered to void the sanctions in exchange for help winning the elections, the special counsel can rest his case.
On Monday, we saw more mountains of evidence of how the Russians worked to help Trump win the election -- as if we needed more. (We also saw evidence that Russia is still entrenched in US social media networks.)
And those were just some of the walls threatening to suffocate the presidency. In January, US Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming head of the House Intelligence Committee, plans to plunge into Trump's finances and other activities. Earlier this month, Schiff said Trump could face "the real prospect of jail time."
But there's more, much more. If Trump's early-morning Flynn tweet sounded like an attempt at obstruction of justice, it's because it echoes his other online comments that some legal experts say amount to illegal witness tampering. Some have also suggested that Trump engaged in an attempt to obstruct justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey that initially led to Mueller's appointment.
Comey, by the way, managed to get under Trump's skin again this week, prompting a controversial tweet by press secretary Sarah Sanders after the former FBI director chastised Republicans for failing to challenge Trump's lies. After testifying in Congress, Comey called on Republicans to "have the courage to stand up and speak the truth, not be cowed by mean tweets or fear of their base."
Republicans will have to make a decision soon, because Trump's troubles are becoming heavier by the day. The list of indictments, guilty pleas and investigations seems to keep growing -- and it's not just the Mueller investigation, which Trump so urgently seeks to discredit.
Among the walls casting a darkening shadow on him is the emoluments lawsuit by attorneys general from Maryland and the District of Columbia. They allege the President has violated the Constitution by accepting "emoluments," payments or favors from foreign governments. The continuing operations of Trump properties, particularly Trump International Hotel in Washington, is drawing increased attention. The Washington Post recently revealed, for example, that Saud-funded lobbyists booked rooms for about 500 nights in the hotel shortly after Trump was elected.
The number of cases of potential malfeasance that could involve Trump, his businesses and his presidency is without precedent. There are so many that even if the special counsel falters, Trump's troubles will likely not be over.
With Cabinet members leaving his administration under ethical clouds, there is no question that the man in the Oval Office is not drawn to individuals with high ethical standards. Trump's track record shows he is hardly a model law-abiding citizen. The conclusion of any of these investigations will probably not be good for the President. Those shadows closing in on him are the walls, already tumbling down on his presidency.
more ... https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/28/politics/house-democrats-investigations-lawyers-hiring/index.html