“The [Mueller] report’s publication marks neither the beginning of the end of the Trump investigations, nor the end of the beginning. It leaves us in the middle of the cauldron.”
Edward Luce, Financial Times, 18 April 2019
Media coverage to date of the publication yesterday of the Mueller report could reasonably be described as more exhausting than exhaustive. There is much more still to come, no doubt, over the long weekend and beyond. Readers will, therefore, be pleased to know that this article is not about the report per se.
Rather, it offers a brief summary of seven separate ongoing legal threats to President Donald Trump, his close family and his business interests, in addition to the inevitability of extensive action by the Democratic Party-dominated House of Representatives (which is, understandably, the focus of the vast majority of press attention just now). Presumably, those sections of the published version of the Mueller report which have been redacted to avoid “harm to ongoing matter” bear on at least some of these.
[It is also worth keeping in mind that the Grand Jury set up by the Mueller investigation is still sitting (at least until June), which could mean that there are more to come.]
Collectively, what these eight existing threats (ie including Congress) make clear is that, contrary to Mr Trump’s Game of Thrones meme (see image above), the ‘game’ is far from over, as the quote at the start of this article from Edward Luce makes clear.
Putting to one side the issue of possible impeachment (a move which I continue to believe, in the light of the Mueller report, would be doomed to fail and could backfire on the the Democrats), the big question, to which we cannot yet know the answer, is how much damage (if any) any one of these could ultimately do to Mr Trump’s reelection prospects in 2020.
In summarising the non-Congressional seven strands I must acknowledge a debt to the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher whose 18 April article sets out more detail on each.
[Game of Sevens](
- Campaign finance: Arising primarily from the testimony of his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, prosecutors in New York’s Southern Manhattan district are investigating possible campaign finance violations in which Mr Trump is directly implicated.
- The Trump Organisation: Rooted again in Mr Cohen’s testimony, the New York State Department of Financial Services is investigating possible fraud, with both Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank in its sights.
- The Trump Foundation: Although it was dissolved in December 2018, the conduct of the Trump Foundation remains under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office, with Mr Trump’s three eldest children in particular potentially in the firing line.
- Inauguration cash: Southern Manhattan is also in the driving seat investigating whether illegal foreign donations and cash in return for access contributed to the USD107m raised to cover the cost of Mr Trump’s inauguration. The President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is reportedly a particular focus of attention.
- Trump International Hotel, Washington: There are two ongoing investigations into whether the Trump organisation is profiting from foreign governments’ use of its hotel in Washington, One looks likely to be blocked by the courts; but the other suit, brought by 200 Democratic Party lawmakers, will probably proceed, with the risk that it could shed much light in the run-up to the 2020 election on the Trump family’s business dealings.
- Summer Zevros: The former Apprentice contestant was recently given the go-ahead by the New York appellate court to pursue a lawsuit against Mr Trump for defamation. Mr Trump’s lawyers are appealing, which some see as an indication of there determination to avoid any risk of the President having to sit for a deposition (bearing in mind where this led to for then President William Jefferson Clinton!).
- Roger Stone: Indicted as part of the Mueller investigation, Mr Stone goes on trial in November for alleged obstruction of justice and lying to Congress. However, expert opinion is that anything which emerges during the trial is unlikely significantly to threaten Mr Trump.