Taken together, colluding with Russians and engaging in a conspiracy to silence women in order to steal the election would be plenty illegal and impeachable offenses. Yet they are just the beginning of the long drawn out nightmare that has begun to beset Donald Trump. We saw a virtual torrent of headlines this week related to Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen, his chief media maker David Pecker who oversees the National Enquirer property among others, an elaborate hush-money scheme to squelch negative press, false testimony to Congress run through the White House, a Russian agent who infiltrated GOP circles and made contact with Trump, and the Trump inaugural committee falling under federal scrutiny for misusing funds, some” of which went to Trump’s own businesses. At the heart of every one of those salacious and potentially illegal scandals is Trump himself.
And yet despite the velocity and volume of the seedy Trump revelations bearing down on America, this week’s reports haven’t even begun to capture the scope of the criminality that will ultimately define Trump, his presidency, and the empire he built. As former federal prosecutor and NBC legal analyst Daniel Goldman explained on Thursday, collusion appears to be moving to the back burner in terms of the universe of criminality surrounding Trump—which isn’t to suggest that collusion didn’t transpire.
“This might really be a much larger scheme related to sanctions and a massive cover up of really unparalleled proportions,” Goldman explained Thursday on MSNBC. “When you look at Michael Cohen coordinating with the White House to lie to Congress and you look at Michael Flynn lying about his transition contacts related to sanctions to Russia,” Goldman said, “it all starts at the top and trickles down and that’s how criminal conspiracies work.”
But actually, that’s just one bucket of problems for Trump—the one that relates more urgently to his political survival and presidency. The other bucket is the work of his life—his family business, the Trump Organization. And that got a wakeup call this week when incoming New York Attorney General Letitia James gave her first interview and outlined an investigatory agenda that will dissect every area of Trump’s Manhattan-based business: Trump’s real estate holdings, the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, any government subsidies Trump has received, any violations of the emoluments clause through his New York businesses, the Trump Foundation, and really any and everything else investigators turn up as they inspect every single foundational rock of Trump’s decades-long professional life in the Empire State.
James also made overhauling New York’s double jeopardy law a central pillar of her campaign so that whatever pardons flow from the White House concerning federal infractions don’t ultimately exonerate crooks who have violated state law.
“I think within the first 100 days this bill will be passed,” she told NBC News, adding that she didn’t want anyone who received a pardon to be “immune from state charges.” Basically, anything that happened in New York—the nexus of both Trump’s professional and political spheres before he moved to D.C. following the election—falls within the New York attorney general’s jurisdiction.
MSNBC commentator Donny Deutsch summed up what that means for Trump and his family in a New York minute-and-a-half of riveting Cable TV.
“What is going to put him in jail eventually, what is going to destroy everything he has ever built—and his children—is a 30-year dishonest criminal enterprise,” Deutsch told Nicolle Wallace on Wednesday, adding that Russia and the hush-money payments are the absolute least of Trump’s worries.
As a fellow New York businessman, Deutsch said Trump was well known in the state’s real estate industry (which is inherently a bit sleazy from the start) as “the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the food chain—this is a criminal guy.”
Taking Trump down has also become at once a law-enforcement imperative, a career maker, and a moral obligation for every prosecutor who can get their hands on some aspect of Trump’s case.
“The political incentive for every U.S. Attorney in New York or Virginia to do it is: This guy tried to show up and undo 250 years of what people have been dying for in this country—who we are, what we stand for […] what our grandfathers died for,” Deutsch noted. “He singlehandedly is the first guy in our lifetime to try to undo that, and he is going to pay for that the rest of his life as they pick apart his criminal enterprise.”
Anyone who has been following the Russia and SDNY investigations of Trump closely has likely had that revelatory moment of thinking, Good god, this is just so much bigger than we can even imagine. But it’s not simply the reach of the tentacles related to collusion and obstruction, it’s the umbrella under which they fall. It’s politics and business, it’s D.C. and Manhattan, it’s federal and state, it’s a conspiracy and cover-up, it’s now and then—and at the very tip of that voluminous umbrella is Donald Trump. Everything has trickled down from him, and prosecutors will be following those streams straight back to their source, indefinitely, until Trump is just a shriveled orange-hued lump of a being, his once-cushy opulent life destroyed beyond recognition.
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