Trump is unlikely to be charged with fraud over his campaign soliciting donations for a non-existent ‘official election defense fund’

Lawmakers listen to an image of a Trump campaign donation banner displayed behind them during a House committee hearing on January 6.Susan Walsh/AP

  • Legal experts say it’s unlikely Trump will be charged with fraud by logging into his campaign’s misleading emails.

  • Trump’s campaign tapped supporters for cash in the name of a nonexistent “election defense fund.”

  • The campaign tactics are under scrutiny after a January 6 committee hearing.

Former President Donald Trump is unlikely to face fraud charges related to his campaign’s alleged efforts to trick supporters into donating money to a non-existent ‘official election defense fund’, legal experts say .

Trump’s political fundraising operation is under scrutiny after the US House of Representatives select committee on January 6 confirmed that no such fund ever existed . Trump’s campaign repeatedly hit supporters with disturbing messages that repeated the then-president’s debunked claims about widespread voter fraud. The posts have garnered record donations for the embattled president to the tune of more than $170 million before he even left office.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who sits on the panel, appeared to open the door to possible allegations of fraud after a top committee investigator documented how none of the hundreds of millions of dollars Trump’s holding collected in the months following the election. to support his various legal battles.

“It’s clear he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist, and used the money raised for something other than what he said. whether it’s criminal or not is up to someone else to decide,” Lofgren said. , who has been a key investigator in impeachments dating back to Nixon, told reporters after Monday’s hearing.

But experts told Insider that while Trump or his associates may have misled donors, there are still crucial details that are still unknown about the fundraising strategy.

“You have to prove to the jury that someone authorized solicitations that the money was going to be spent on elections knowing it was false,” said Adav Noti, vice president and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, who previously served as Federal Associate General Counsel for Election Commission Policy. “You have to find the individuals, it wouldn’t be enough for criminal purposes to say ‘this is what happened’.”

The Jan. 6 committee revealed previously undisclosed testimony from Trump campaign officials in which they admitted that disturbing emails urging people to support legal challenges were more of a marketing gimmick than a serious effort to fund legal battles. related to the 2020 presidential election.

“The Trump campaign knew these allegations of voter fraud were false, but it continued to bombard small donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called ‘The Official Election Defense Fund,'” Amanda Wick, the committee’s lead investigative counsel, said in a video released during the hearing. “The select committee discovered that no such fund existed.”

Noti said what the campaign did “looks like a fraudulent scheme,” but that the fact that a case centers on the then-incumbent United States president and his campaign could make prosecutors less likely to pursue a case. affair.

“In ordinary contexts, if someone has collected this amount of money knowingly making false pretences, they may well be considering prosecution for fraud,” Noti said. “There is a practical consideration that this fraud was perpetrated by or on behalf of the President of the United States and that is an important fact with respect to charging decisions.”

In a 12-page statement late Monday, Trump remained as defiant as ever, lambasting the select committee hearings.

“If they had real evidence, they would hold real hearings with equal representation,” Trump wrote. “They don’t, so they use the illegally constituted committee to put on a smoke and mirror show for the American people, in a pitiful last-ditch effort to deceive the American public…again.”

Merrick Garland vs. Donald

Attorney General Merrick Garland (left) and former President Donald Trump (right).Sean Rayford/Alex Wong/Getty Images

More money, more problems?

One thing is clear: Any legal peril associated with campaign money for Trump would likely come from the Justice Department rather than the FEC, a bipartisan regulatory agency that serves as the civilian enforcer of campaign finance law. .

Numerous campaign finance complaints linked to Trump have already been submitted to the six-member commission, four of whose members are Trump candidates. The commission, along ideological lines, has frequently blocked 3-3 on these cases.

A prime example of this came in May, when the FEC stuck on a complaint that Trump’s 2020 White House campaign laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in spending through entities closely linked to the ex-president and his family, according to a ruling document obtained by Insider.

In recent years, the Department of Justice has had a certain appetite for pursuing campaign finance cases. Earlier this month, former congressional candidate Nicholas Jones pleaded guilty falsifying records to conceal thousands of dollars in in-kind campaign contributions. And federal prosecutors won a major victory earlier this year after a jury sentenced then-Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, of lying to the FBI about an illegal campaign contribution from a Nigerian billionaire.

But the Justice Department’s record of high-profile campaign finance prosecutions is uneven.

Ten years ago, former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator John Edwards Free market after federal prosecutors refused to try him after a jury found him not guilty on one count of violating campaign finance law and blocking other counts of accusation, causing a mistrial.

To prosecute the former President of the United States with criminal campaign finance charges of any kind would be unprecedented.

Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters he was monitoring the Jan. 6 committee hearings, but otherwise cited the traditional Justice Department standard of not commenting on ongoing or future investigations.

Garland also stressed that his department would not back down from holding anyone accountable, though some Democrats have criticized him for moving too slowly and being too soft on people who didn’t trash the Capitol but nonetheless contributed to efforts to annul the elections.

Kenneth Gross, a former FEC law enforcement official, said any campaign finance cases that Trump or his campaign officials may face would be difficult for prosecutors because the government gives significant deference to campaigns. about how they spend their money.

“Now, if there’s been an embezzlement for personal gain, that’s the kind of thing that gets prosecutors interested in these cases,” Gross said in an interview.

As the Washington Post pointed out in 2020Trump’s campaign also told potential donors in fine print that 75% of each donation would go to Trump’s then-newly created leadership PAC.

Trump’s re-election campaign committee, as well as its successor political action committees, have long made fabulous, disbelieving, and blatantly false statements to potential donors.

They often involved pledges of donation “matches” which, as Insider previously reportednever happened.

Last year, the Justice Department said fraudulent “match” solicitations were one of many misdeeds factored into a political crook’s scam. to plead guilty on one count of wire fraud.

But the campaign money scandals are perhaps the least of Trump’s legal troubles.

Beyond Capitol Hill and even New York, where officials are survey Trump’s business empire Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis is investigating the president’s efforts to pressure Georgia officials after losing the state. And Attorney General Karl Racine sued Trump’s inaugural committee for overpaying the then president-elect’s company for the use of his hotel.

Read the original article at Business Intern

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