The States Can Trump Trump’s Pardons: State Prosecutions for Money Laundering, Tax Fraud, Hacking Conspiracy, and More

[This piece is cross-posted at Slate and Just Security]

After President Donald Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, observers feared that the president was just warming up his pardon pen for his inner circle who may be targets of criminal investigations. Many legal experts have said there would be no recourse other than impeachment, but at least these pardoned defendants would lose their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and, as a result, they’d be forced to testify against Trump in some forum.

Those experts are wrong on both counts. The Trump defendants, if pardoned by the President, do not lose their 5th Amendment privileges, precisely because Presidential pardons affect only federal criminal liability, but not state prosecution.  Based on what we know now, all of these defendants face state prosecution for many of the same alleged acts based upon violations of state criminal law. Individuals pardoned by Trump may thus still claim they cannot be forced to say anything to incriminate themselves and that they remain exposed to criminal prosecutions at the state level.   

Continue reading “The States Can Trump Trump’s Pardons: State Prosecutions for Money Laundering, Tax Fraud, Hacking Conspiracy, and More”

Pence and Obstruction of Justice

On Friday, news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had obtained a draft letter written by President Trump and advisor Stephen Miller explaining Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director Jim Comey. They wrote the letter over the weekend of May 5-7, and then on May 8th, Trump distributed and read the letter to senior officials, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and Vice President Mike Pence. Then the letter was edited, and Trump fired Comey the next day.  On Friday, I suggested on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word” on MSNBC that the most significant development was Pence’s potential criminal liability for his role in obstruction of justice (and I emphasize “potential,” because all we have at this stage are allegations in media reports and a lot more questions about the contents of the letter and Pence’s role in revising or editing it).

Continue reading “Pence and Obstruction of Justice”

Dramatis Personae of potential indictments (or cooperating witnesses)

I’m keeping a list of all the people who could be indicted (or could be flipped into cooperating witnesses against others). It’s a long list, so I thought I’d start keeping track of them with handy links for background, highlights, and potential crimes.

Michael Flynn: So much trouble. Failure to disclose foreign contacts on SF-86. Failed to disclose payments from foreign governments. Failed to file as a foreign agent.

Carter Page: potentially a foreign agent for Russia while working for the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser.

Michael Cohen: The “Says who?” guy. One of Trump’s long-time lawyers, with alleged ties to Ukrainian and Russian organized crime. Emails surfaced between Sater and Cohen in 2015 about building a Trump Tower in Russia. is all over this guy here and here. Update: “Donald Trump discussed a proposal to build a hotel and condominium tower in Moscow on three occasions with his company’s lawyer, who emailed the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for assistance on the project. The Trump Organization weighed the “Trump Tower Moscow” proposal from September 2015 to January 2016, attorney Michael Cohen told the House intelligence committee.”

Felix Sater: shady business partner turned FBI informant, with ties to Ukrainian and Russian organized crime. Wrote to Michael Cohen in 2015: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it… I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” was all over this guy in August 2016, while the mainstream media was talking Hillary’s emails, and has more now.

Jeff Sessions: perjury, false statement, probably more Russia trouble with Kislyak.

Paul Manafort: Money laundering, millions in corrupt deals, failed to file as a foreign agent. The pre-dawn FBI raid in July 2017 means a judge or magistrate already found probable cause for crimes.  There are so many damaging stories here, here, and more.

Jared Kushner: Shady June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer and hacker. Tried to set up insane direct line from Russian embassy in DC to the Kremlin to avoid any American surveillance. In big trouble for a disastrous real estate purchase — the most expensive building purchase ever in the U.S. at the top of the market just before the 2008 crash — of 666 5th Ave in NY (that number is no joke), which threatens to destroy Javanka’s fortunes. I speculated that the secret direct line to the Kremlin was Jared’s bid to bargain an end of sanctions against Russia (worth billions to Russia) in return for getting bailed out by a sweet Russian loan in the multi-millions.

Don Trump, Jr.: Same shady June 2016 meeting. Keep in mind that he first said it was about Russian adoptions, and then the truth came out that it was about Kremlin assistance. The “Russian adoption” line was really a bumbling confession that the meeting may have been quid pro quo: American sanctions led to the Kremlin retaliating with ending Russian adoptions, so the adoption issue was probably part of a deal to lift sanctions in return for Kremlin campaign/hacking help.


Roger Stone: hacking conspiracy, direct contacts with Assange and WikiLeaks, and perhaps other hackers.

Chris Collins: former congressman turned Trump transition adviser, alleged insider trading.

Mainstream Media’s Incompetence Produced the Trump Victory

Are you shocked by today’s “breaking” news, the Washington Post’s “scoop” that the Trump Organization was actively engaged in negotiating a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign?  You shouldn’t be, and it’s not your fault.  The amazing, a part of new media doing more serious investigative work and posting deep political commentary, broke this story LAST AUGUST in the middle of the general election.  Why didn’t the Washington Post and other mainstream papers or cable news report this news to connect the Russia dots in the middle of Trump’s deeply suspicious pro-Putin behavior then? Why? Because they were too busy with both-sides-ism, Hillary’s emails, the “basket of deplorables” (newsflash, Hillary was dead right, no pun intended), Hillary fainting…

Talking heads and reporting the horse-race is easy and cheap. Investigative reporting is hard. But it’s also their job.  It turn out that Trump is half right about “fake news.” Superficial news coverage gave us President Trump. Media, stop freaking out about Trump mocking you, and just do your job.


The Arpaio pardon and impeachment 

Here are three good pieces on Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, each reflecting the bottom line that Trump abused the power, and even if the pardon can legally/procedurally go into effect, It should also be grounds for impeachment: Frank Bowman in Slate, Josh Chafetz in the Washington Post, and Noah Feldman in Bloomberg.  I’m adding Krugman’s piece here, too:

“Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style… There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

[For what it’s worth, I’m not yet persuaded by Martin Redish’s take in the NY Times that the 14th Amendment’s due process clause restricts this particular pardon. I think the obstruction of justice statutes might apply instead, but probably only to a worse set of facts (such as Arpaio or his henchmen returning to commit the same crimes, and receiving a second pardon, or Trump’s pardoning collaborators in order to obstruct the Russia investigation). To the extent that Arpaio’s actions plus the pardon continue to impact civil rights, let me add that there can still be new injunctive relief against Arpaio, there can be federal and state prosecutions of Arpaio and his henchmen for all kinds of crimes. Federal pardons do not impact state prosecutions. Moreover, victims can bring torts suits in state and federal court (civil rights violations based on Section 1983 and constitutional torts violating 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments).