Tue, Mar 26, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Trump’s legal woes far from over

‘PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS’:US federal and state prosecutors in new York are still investigating possible campaign-finance violations and his business dealings

AP, NEW YORK

US President Donald Trump may be reveling in what he sees as “complete and total exoneration” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but his legal perils are far from over.

Federal and state investigators in New York are deep into investigations of their own into Trump and those in his orbit, probes that some observers have long viewed as every bit as menacing as Mueller’s two-year look into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“They are very real and very significant,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. “If you’re Trump, this has got to feel, in some ways, like an even greater threat than the Russia probe.”

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are pursuing at least two known criminal inquiries, one focused into possible corruption in Trump’s inaugural committee and another 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 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 in 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 harassment, a theme he and his supporters are likely to keep hammering in the wake of the Mueller findings.

The US Department of Justice on Sunday said that Mueller’s two-year investigation found no evidence that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, and that it did not come to a definitive answer on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Reacting to the findings in Florida on Sunday, Trump called the Mueller probe “an illegal takedown that failed.”

The US 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 said 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 New Jersey governor Chris Christie of New Jersey told MSNBC recently.

Cohen stoked speculation when he told Congress he was aware of other “wrongdoing” involving Trump, but could not talk about it because it was “part of the investigation that is 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 last year 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.

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