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Trump Still Faces Other Investigations 03/23 10:39

   NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump still has to contend with state and 
federal investigators in New York, even though special counsel Robert Mueller 
has wrapped up his investigation with no additional indictments.

   Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are pursuing at least two known criminal 
inquiries involving Trump or people in his orbit, one involving his inaugural 
committee and another focused on the hush-money scandal that led his former 
lawyer, Michael Cohen, to plead guilty last year to campaign finance violations.

   The president also faces inquiries from New York's attorney general, Letitia 
James, who recently opened a civil inquiry into Cohen's claims that Trump 
exaggerated his wealth when seeking loans for real estate projects and a failed 
bid to buy the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, a state regulatory entity is 
looking into whether Trump gave false information to insurance companies.

   Cohen told Congress in testimony last month he is in "constant contact" with 
prosecutors involving ongoing investigations.

   Trump has dismissed the New York investigations as politically motivated.

   "These investigations could pose a danger to everybody in Trump's inner 
circle," said Patrick J. Cotter, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern 
District of New York. "They are very real and very significant. If you're 
Trump, this has got to feel, in some ways, like an even greater threat than the 
Russia probe."

   Mueller on Friday gave his report on possible collusion with the Kremlin in 
the 2016 presidential election to the office of U.S. Attorney General William 
Barr. Its contents remain confidential, but Barr said he will decide soon how 
much of the report he will release to Congress and the public. As of Friday 
evening, the White House said it had not seen or been briefed on the document.

   The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment on the New York 
probes but has told a federal judge it is still investigating campaign-finance 
violations committed when Cohen helped orchestrate six-figure payments to a 
porn actress, Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, to 
keep them quiet during the campaign about alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen 
says Trump ordered the payments and later reimbursed him for his efforts. So 
far, nobody besides Cohen has been charged.

   Political observers have continued to speculate that Cohen, who is scheduled 
to report to prison in May, might secretly be providing investigators with 
additional information.

   "If you've got Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer, as a tour 
guide, that means you could go anywhere," former Gov. Chris Christie of New 
Jersey told MSNBC recently.

   Cohen stoked speculation when he told Congress he was aware of other 
"wrongdoing" involving Trump but couldn't talk about it because it was "part of 
the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of 
New York."

   Among other things, he suggested prosecutors were investigating 
communications he had with either Trump or one of his representatives in spring 
2018 in the months after the FBI raided his home and office. At the time, Cohen 
was looking for information about whether Trump might consider giving him a 
pardon.

   But there was a sign Friday that the federal probe in Manhattan also could 
be winding down or shifting course: the news that Robert Khuzami, the 
prosecutor leading the Cohen probe, will step down April 12. The case went to 
Khuzami when U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman was recused for undisclosed 
reasons. Berman remains in charge of other investigations related to Trump.

   The president has denied breaking any laws and dismissed Cohen as a liar. He 
derided the state investigations in New York as a "witch hunt," calling the 
state and its Democratic governor and attorney general "proud members of the 
group of PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS."

   Trump says the payments to Daniels and McDougal were a private matter 
unrelated to his campaign.

   The White House has said Trump was not involved in the operations of his 
inaugural committee, which raised $107 million to celebrate his election.

   The inquiry into the committee has focused partly on whether donors received 
"benefits" after making contributions or whether foreign nationals made barred 
donations, according to a subpoena sent to the committee. The same document 
shows prosecutors are looking at whether the committee's vendors were paid with 
unreported donations.

   The U.S. Justice Department has held for nearly a half-century that a 
sitting president is constitutionally immune from criminal prosecution, a 
conclusion Cotter, the former prosecutor, referred to as Trump's "ace in the 
hole."

   If prosecutors find evidence Trump committed a crime, they could wait to 
charge him after he leaves office, though the legal deadline for filing charges 
is five years for most federal offenses, including the campaign-finance 
violations in question in the Cohen case.

   The possibility of Trump's re-election has raised questions about whether 
that deadline could be tolled --- suspended --- for the duration of his 
presidency.

   Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of 
New York, said it's unlikely a judge would allow that because no law expressly 
forbids charges against a sitting president. Tolling the statute of limitations 
is typically reserved for circumstances beyond the government's control, like 
when a defendant becomes a fugitive.

   "The DOJ, in fact, could proceed with a case" against the president, said 
Rodgers, who lectures at Columbia Law School. "They aren't because of their own 
policy."

   James, New York's attorney general, also has a pending lawsuit alleging 
Trump and his family illegally ran the Trump Foundation as an extension of his 
businesses and presidential campaign. And she has called for a "full 
examination" of a New York Times report accusing Trump's family of benefiting 
from "dubious tax schemes" in the 1990s.

   The foundation has agreed to dissolve. Its lawyers have argued that the 
lawsuit is flimsy and politically motivated.

   Experts have said the president is unlikely to be criminally prosecuted over 
the tax matters, which are far past the statute of limitations, but state 
officials could pursue Trump for millions of dollars in civil fines.


(KA)

 
 
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