In essence, by making [Michael] Cohen say he acted at Trump’s direction, the Southern District [of New York] declared war on the president.
Then there’s the Weisselberg immunity grant. Although the reporting so far indicates that Weisselberg’s deal was limited to testimony about Cohen’s conduct, it seems likely prosecutors have bigger things in mind. To convict Cohen, the Southern District didn’t need the CFO’s testimony. There was already plenty of documentary evidence against Cohen.
And Cohen’s guilt did not depend on whether he was ever paid back by the Trump Organization for the payoffs he made to two women alleging affairs with Trump. According to the prosecutors (and the plea itself), Cohen’s campaign-finance crime was complete when he made the payment from his own funds in coordination with the campaign.
Weisselberg’s usefulness then is almost certainly in areas beyond the Cohen case — in any investigation into criminality in the Trump Organization. That could take many forms. The Southern District could explore money laundering crimes, tax evasion, or bribes of foreign officials or governments, which are illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The Cohen conviction makes any such Southern District investigation normal and logical, not a “witch hunt.”
Consider that the prosecutors now have strong evidence that the Trump Organization was part of a conspiracy to commit campaign-finance violations. The repayment of Cohen by the Trump Organization makes the company fair game.
In any ordinary criminal investigation by the Southern District, evidence that a corporation has been used as part of a criminal conspiracy, with the knowledge and involvement of its owner and CFO, would naturally trigger further digging. Was this the first time the Trump Organization ever acted criminally? The Southern District prosecutors are going to want to know the answer. And they’re going to find out.
The upshot is that Trump is vulnerable to further revelations of criminal behavior. Some will no doubt have nothing to do with Russia. Others, such as money laundering, may turn up connections to Russians.
The digging by the Southern District should be a clue to Trump that, when he leaves office, an indictment may be waiting. That would make it hard for him to do his job as president. It would also give him an incentive to resign and be pardoned by Mike Pence.
And if the Southern District wanted to go after Trump before that, it has tools aplenty at its disposal. [Continue reading…]