New York’s criminal investigation into Donald Trump broadens

Donald Trump’s business improprieties have once again come to the fore. The New York Times reports that “[t]he New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.” This has some serious long-term implications.

First, Trump’s personal business dealings are under serious scrutiny, perhaps more scrutiny than ever before. One notable example of suspected improprieties is that there have long been allegations that Trump overvalued his assets to obtain more favorable loans from Deutsche Bank. Another notable example of a source of suspected improprieties comes from Trump’s dealings with Mazars, the accountancy firm.

In other words, it seems very likely that New York prosecutors are assembling a substantial, labyrinthine paper trail that connects Trump to, well, something. We don’t know what yet. Possibly nothing, possibly a trove of misconduct. My sense is that in the course of investigating Trump, someone somewhere caught a scent of what goes on behind Trump’s closed doors and this has culminated in a broad investigation of Trump’s financial ties.

Why is this significant? Well, for one, there was enough “there” there for prosecutors to justify continuing an investigation. Further, and more importantly, this investigation has serious long-term implications for Trump. If Trump wins a second term, this investigation could become his new Mueller — always at the back of his mind, always eating away at his sense of security. More substantively, a finding of serious financial improprieties like fraud, extortion, money laundering, and racketeering, for example, could lead to a second impeachment inquiry and even second impeachment trial. Even if this doesn’t lead to another impeachment inquiry, surely Trump’s assets, including his businesses and corporate properties, could be put at risk of seizure. Keep in mind that Trump the individual is not the same as Trump’s corporate entities—his entities don’t have the protections he has.

Of course, if Trump doesn’t win reelection and it turns out there are serious financial improprieties, Trump, as a private citizen, would be subject to major legal trouble. Trump thus has a serious incentive to stay in power. With Bill Barr as Attorney General, law and order are at the mercy of the toady.

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