The State of New York has been prosecuting a civil case against Trump and his family for their many charity frauds. This doesn’t mean it cannot become a criminal case in the future. Moreover, it certainly doesn’t mean it cannot be part of impeachment proceedings.
Marc S. Owens, a former head of the IRS’s nonprofit division, called the suit “an extraordinary catalogue of how not to run a private foundation. There’s little else [Trump] could have done that would have made it worse.”
It is most likely that all of these crimes occurred before Trump assumed office. Does the High Crimes and Misdemeanors Clause of the Constitution allow for offenses committed prior to federal political or judicial office? The short answer is yes. The long answer is still yes, and it can be found on my offsite cache of relevant materials here.
CHARITY FRAUD AS CENTERPIECE OF IMPEACHMENT
It has been my opinion for quite some time that the centerpiece for any impeachment of Trump should be his embezzlement from charity. The reasons are: (1) It is so despicable it is an easier sell to the public than violations of the Emoluments Clause or Campaign Finance laws. (2) It is easily understood and memed: What kind of Monster steals from a Charity? (3) It is easily established. Let’s look at the last of those reasons first.
The Open and Shut Case for Embezzlement
New York would charge these crimes under their embezzlement/larceny statute, which requires that the Government prove the following elements per Section 155.05 of the New York Penal Law:
1. A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself … he wrongfully takes … such property from an owner thereof.
2. Larceny includes a wrongful taking, obtaining or withholding of another’s property, with the intent prescribed in subdivision one of this section, committed in any of the following ways:
(a) By conduct heretofore defined or known as … embezzlement….
There would be a number of counts in the embezzlement from a Charity article of impeachment. One of the counts would involve Trump embezzling $100,000.00 from his Charity to settle a private lawsuit involving a fifty-foot-tall flagpole at Mar-a-Lago. This is one of those High Crimes and Misdemeanors that is already proved beyond a reasonable doubt, as Trump wrote out and then initialed his own confession:
The funds were spent to settle the dispute as directed by Trump (see check below), and we know that the “Allen W” referenced in Trump’s handwriting is Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s CFO for many years. He is reported to have been cooperating with the SDNY.
I have singled out one felony crime because it is so easily proven. There are as many as two dozen of these. For additional information about Trump’s other efforts at stealing from a charity, please see this, and this, and this. He was a very prolific charity thief.
Charity Theft is Easily Understood and Memed
What kind of Monster Steals from a Charity? It would be hard for anybody to defend Trump from these accusations because he stole so often and stole so much. The money should have gone to charity! Instead, it went to pay his own expenses like a sleazy criminal slush fund. Easy for anybody to understand and meme:
This political cartoon isn’t effective because it shows an over-weight Trump. It is effective because it shows that Trump doesn’t really need the cookies he’s stealing. That should be a very powerful message to the public.
The meme is already out there. We simply need to amplify it.
Emoluments Clause and Campaign Finance Law Violations Are Harder to Sell
These violations should be part of the Articles of Impeachment, but they are harder to sell. They should not be the centerpiece of the effort. The Campaign Finance violations are also easily established because Trump’s voice is caught on tape directing Michael Cohen to commit them. Moreover, they would benefit from Cohen’s testimony.
Still, these violations would be undermined by the right-wing meme that Trump gave up a lucrative business to run for president. (I believe that meme is false). On the other hand, there is no counter-meme for stealing from a charity. Only Monsters do that.
HOW TO PROCEED
If I were House Counsel, I would suggest that the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, ask the previous and current New York Attorneys General to testify before his subcommittee about their case against Trump.
This would be a closed-door session.
Many witnesses want to be subpoenaed to show up. That would be fine. There are rules that require the AGs to remain tight-lipped about pending cases, so give them soft subpoenas. I would ask them to bring certified copies of all the evidence against Trump. Soft subpoena those documents if necessary. Once the evidence has been adduced—and in conjunction with other committee hearings gathering other evidence about other crimes—I would drop Articles of Impeachment out of the blue, with the top of page one reading as follows:
RESOLVED, That Donald J. Trump, is impeached for high Crimes and Misdemeanors, and that the following Articles of Impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:
Article 1: Stealing from a Charity