By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Q: What is collusion?
A. It’s defined as secret cooperation or conspiracy. But even if there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, there’s no specific law against that.
Q. If collusion is not against the law what are we investigating?
A. Nick Ackerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, says the big issue in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, but whether it conspired to steal emails from prominent figures in the Democratic Party.
“I think the big enchilada here is the conspiracy to break into the Democratic National Committee [DNC] in violation of the federal computer crime law and to use those emails to help Donald Trump get elected,” Ackerman said on MSNBC.
“All of that is motive as to why Donald Trump and others were endeavoring to obstruct the investigation, and why Donald Trump told [former FBI Director] James Comey to let the investigation on [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn go,” he added. “All of this is going to come together in 2018.”
Q: So, what’s exactly is obstruction of justice and how does it apply to this investigation?
A. Short answer: Obstruction of justice is historically the easiest way to impeach a sitting President in the United States.
Formal answer: Obstruction of justice is a federal offense that covers any attempt by someone to corruptly “influence, obstruct, or impede” the “due administration of justice.”
Q. How does obstruction of justice play into what’s happening with the Russia Inquiry?
A. Many have focused on Comey’s claim that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but some legal experts say that misses the larger point: the President fired Comey after he refused.
“I think the key is that the most significant step Trump appears to have taken is not his specific discussions with Comey, but his decision to fire Comey entirely because of his dissatisfaction with the shape and progress of the Russia investigation,” explained Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. ” On Flynn, it devolves into a fight over what Trump intended and what Comey understood him to intend. Contrast that with firing Comey, where there’s nowhere near the same mess about why he did it.”
Since Comey’s departure, there have been several other questions regarding the possibility of Trump obstructing justice. There have been too many to mention actually, up to and including private conversations with witnesses who’ve been questioned by Special Counsel. Additionally, Trump most likely instructed Jeff Sessions start a Department of Justice investigation into the FBI’s Russia Inquiry.
Q. What about Trump’s financial crimes?
A. Nothing is off the table in the Mueller probe for Trump or any of his associates. Financial crimes may actually prove to be Trump’s undoing, directly or indirectly. Mueller is using the financial crimes of Trump associates as leverage for cooperation in the probe. It’s a strategy that’s proving to be quite effective.
Among the first Trump associates to be indicted last year was campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is accused of laundering money by purchasing several properties in New York and Virginia. Manafort, who has worked for pro-Kremlin officials in Ukraine, has pleaded not guilty and is expected to stand trial later this year.
Manafort’s attorneys have pointed out the charges he is facing date from years before he joined the Trump campaign and don’t have any bearing on any alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russians.
Mueller has hired several prosecutors with experience in prosecuting financial crimes such as money laundering, including Andrew Weissman, chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section.
“I don’t think he (Mueller) would have brought them onto his team if that wasn’t going to be an area that would be focused on,” says former federal prosecutor Kenneth McCallion, who helped investigate ties between Trump and New York Mafia figures in the 1980s.
Several published reports say Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank for records about Trump associates. Deutsche Bank was the only major commercial bank willing to lend to Trump after his string of bankruptcies. It has also been accused of laundering Russian money by the New York State Department of Financial Services. (Source: NPR)
Additionally, Trump and many of his associates were being investigated for financial crimes on the state level, even pre-dating his campaign. This may turn out to be a very critical twist of legal fate for Trump and his peeps.
Under the dual sovereignty principle, the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on double jeopardy — which prevents the government from trying someone twice for the same crime — doesn’t apply if the second trial is by a different “sovereign” — in this case, the state. Trump may be able to pardon people on federal crimes, but it’s going to be a lot harder to pardon people for state charged crimes.
Many of these crimes could be prosecuted on both the state and federal level, possibly even concurrently. Finacial crimes are most likely to fit in concurrent prosecution box.
Q. What else do we need to be watching for?
A. Conspiracy Against the United States
U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 19 › § 371
18 U.S. Code § 371 – Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States
Short Answer: PEACETIME TREASON
Formal Answer: ” a conspiracy involving two or more people to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose”.
In a 1924 case, Hammerschmidt v. United States, Chief Justice William Taft (who was US President from from 1909 to 1913) defined “defraud”.
“To conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the Government out of property or money,” he said.
“But it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.”
The indicted Russians face charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. through election interference. If any Americans were knowingly involved in such a conspiracy they will face similar charges.
Conspiracy Against the United States is a very serious charge that rarely stands alone. It’s usually the frosting on stack of many other serious charges. Any other crimes in the mix significantly impact sentencing in a conspiracy charge of this nature. For a lot of people involved in the Russia probe, Conspiracy Against the United States, if found guilty will mean spending the rest of their lives in jail. A judge himself said that very thing regarding the likely fate of Paul Manafort.
We’ve already seen charges for Conspiracy Against the United States in the Russia probe. Chances are very high that is a foreshadowing of bigger things to come. Robert Mueller and his team are likely in the process of unraveling the largest conspiracy against any government in history.
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.