Trump Lawlessness and Corruption
Trump Lawlessness and Corruption
The New York Attorney General has a unique role to play as the single most important law enforcement agency with the power to force the Trump administration, and the Trump Organization and Trump Foundation, to follow the rule of law.
I have been in the legal fight against Trump’s lawless actions from the moment he was elected, and I am fully ready to lead that fight for the people of New York. Three days after he was elected, I was one of a team of top lawyers to sue Trump for his violations of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That lawsuit, which is still ongoing, would force him to divest his business interests. I will continue to aggressively follow the evidence of his personal, campaign, and business activities that violate NY State and federal law.
I will be relentless, independent, ethical and swift, acting without fear or favor. I believe that we in New York can and must do more, because Trump’s businesses are here, giving us jurisdiction to investigate, restrain, and where necessary dissolve corporations founded on fraud.
As AG, I will be fully ready to prosecute any associate of Trump who is pardoned in a self-serving pardon under state law.
Related:Teachout Launches Attorney General Campaign with Focus on Trump
Agenda for Protecting New York from Trump Corruption and The Trump Administration
The Trump administration, President Trump himself, and the relationship between the President and his businesses and Foundation pose unique and pressing threats to our democracy and to the rule of law at both the state and federal levels. A well-functioning democracy has robust mechanisms of enforcement to hold wrongdoers accountable, protect the vulnerable, and ensure that the power is not wielded for self-enrichment or in arbitrary and cruel ways.
The New York Attorney General has a critical role to play in confronting the genuine threats to democracy posed by the Trump presidency. First, the New York Attorney General must continue to lead multi-state litigation against unlawful actions by the Trump administration. Second, the New York Attorney General must pursue aggressive investigations into Trump’s businesses and foundation. Third, The New York Attorney General must be ready, along with local District Attorneys, to bring criminal charges against Trump associates if he issues self-serving pardons. She must also be ready to pursue criminal investigations if Trump fires Mueller, or radically hampers him in his investigations.
As Attorney General I will proactively investigate, enforce and prosecute every law at my disposal to hold Trump, his entities and the federal government accountable. I will call on my deep experience as a constitutional lawyer and anti-corruption expert to effectively navigate these new legal challenges.
Litigation against Illegal Trump Administration Actions
The Trump administration has repeatedly violated laws from the Constitution to the Administrative Procedure Act to state law and moved aggressively to infringe on individual liberties and due process protections.1 Coalitions of state Attorneys General have joined together, frequently led by New York State, to require proposed rules be withdrawn, to challenge illegal actions (such as family separation), and to file joint amici curiae in support of restraining federal overreach.2
New York has been a leader in the legal efforts against the Trump administration’s illegality and I will continue and expand that role, as detailed in the subsequent sections (see sections on Civil Rights; Environmental Justice). I will use the Administrative Procedure Act, the United States Constitution, and state and federal laws, to be creative, diligent, and tenacious, and to ensure that we are operating at the highest level of lawyering to stop Trump lawlessness and protect New Yorkers.
Vigorously Litigate the Emoluments Clause to Protect our Democracy and Constitution.
Donald Trump’s decision to hold the office of the Presidency without separating from his businesses violates core protections in our Constitution designed to the ensure that those at the highest pinnacles of power do not put their personal interests above the interests of the nation. The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits federal officers from receiving gifts or benefits from any “King, Prince, or Foreign State” without the consent of Congress and is intended to make sure that federal officers are not compromised by their financial interests.3 In violation of this clause, Trump benefits directly from foreign powers’ financial support.4 However, prior to January 2017, the scope of this clause had never been litigated in court. The Domestic Emoluments Clause bars the President from receiving benefits other than his compensation from the federal, state, or local governments; Trump is also violating this clause, and its scope had never been litigated prior to this Presidency.
I have already been at the forefront of the legal fight against Trump’s lawless actions, working with the top lawyers in the country on enforcing these clauses. Working with Norm Eisen, Larry Tribe and others I crafted the emoluments litigation strategy, building the legal and definitional framework, recruiting top lawyers to join us, and representing the first plaintiffs to bring an emoluments lawsuit.5 That lawsuit, which is still ongoing, will bring Trump’s tax returns to light and force him to divest his business interests. I have also consulted on the parallel lawsuits by members of Congress and the Attorneys General of Maryland and DC. Most recently I prepared the DC and Maryland advocates for their successful arguments in Maryland District Court.
A federal judge recently ruled in favor of the Maryland and DC Attorneys General holding that their emoluments suit against the Trump hotel may proceed and accepting the definition of emoluments for which I advocated.6 My own research was cited extensively in Judge Messitte’s opinion. While President Trump is appealing, as it stands, the implications of the court’s decision are very clear: Trump must divest the business interests in Maryland and DC that are used for accepting any form of foreign government payment.
New York State must join this litigation, because most Trump businesses are in New York.7 New York is the beating heart of Trump’s business empire. Not only do we need to know exactly who is staying at the President’s hotels or other buildings, and who is paying him via other mechanisms, we need to stop the open, ongoing constitutional violation that is happening here in New York.
Investigate President’s Trump’s Business Enterprises and hold the Trump Foundation Legally Accountable
Attorney General Underwood recently brought a blockbuster lawsuit against the Donald Trump Foundation, showing how New York is able to hold the Trump Foundation legally accountable. She brought the suit under Business Law 1101, a provision I have long championed as a key tool for investigating Trump organization lawlessness.
That lawsuit alleges that for more than a decade, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities. This pattern of illegal conduct by the foundation and its board members includes improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.8 I will continue to press that lawsuit to the fullest extent of the law.
However, we need a full investigation into the Trump Organization itself. There is sufficient evidence in press reports to warrant such an investigation under Executive Law 63(12) and Business Law 1101. EL 63(12) covers cases of persistent fraud or illegality and I will investigate Trump’s business activity for fraudulent or illegal acts. If uncovered, I will direct restitution and damages and use the full scope of equitable powers to stop the illegal behavior.9 I will also use other provisions, such as New York’s Business Law 1101, that allow the attorney general to investigate and restrain unlawful corporate behavior.10
New York State Investigations and Prosecutions of Trump Associates
New York must be ready to act if Trump issues a self-serving pardon of one or more of his associates. While I support closing the pardon loophole in New York State law – I was the first candidate for Attorney General to call for such a closure – in many cases New York will be able to act without that loophole being closed.
Federal pardons do not bar prosecutions for state crimes, and under existing New York law, state crimes can be prosecuted so long as they are not based on the same set of acts underlying the federal crime. Based on news reports alone, Trump associates may have violated the following laws, and an investigation is warranted into criminal activity: New York State Bank Fraud laws (New York Penal Law Article 190); Conspiracy to conceal federal campaign finance violations (NYPL 210.45 (a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail); Obstruction of justice and defrauding the government (NYPL 195.20; NYPL 195.05); Conspiracy to engage in election fraud (New York Election Law Sections 17-150(2), 17-152, and 17-154). There are a family of bribery and perjury laws that could be investigated, along with New York State money laundering laws (NY Penal Law 470), state larceny laws, and a law against conspiracy in computer hacking (NYPL 156).
It is critical to begin investigations now into state law crimes so that the New York State Attorney General, working with local law enforcement, is ready to act if Trump precipitates a constitutional crisis by issuing a protective pardon.
Working with other law enforcement and seeking appropriate referrals
It will be essential to work with law enforcement at the federal and state level to pursue criminal investigations. The NYSAG has a patchwork of criminal jurisdiction, and in some cases it may be critical for other agencies to provide a referral to allow for a full criminal investigation. Last month I called on Governor Cuomo to make a referral for criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s office and he has indicated he is prepared to do after my public calls.11 The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is also investigating whether the Donald J. Trump Foundation violated state tax laws and may also request a criminal investigation to the Attorney General’s office, which I will pursue vigorously.
2 See a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule that would allow health care providers to deny coverage in cases involving abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and other matters because of moral or religious beliefs. https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2018/03/30/ 033018hhsrule/
3 No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. See Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.
4 The largest office of China’s largest bank, owned by the Chinese government, is also a rent-paying tenant in Trump Tower in New York, paying the Trump Organization of which Trump is the principal owner. The Washington Post recently revealed that during the first quarter of 2018 a single guest, the Saudi Crown Prince, accounted for a 13% boost in revenue at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan. See this Washington Post article.
6 http://time.com/5349217/judge-trump-emoluments-clause-lawsuit/. In his 52-page opinion, the judge said attorneys general for Maryland and the District had "convincingly argued" that the Constitution treats emoluments "as any 'profit,' 'gain,' or 'advantage.'"
7 New York, which should have been the lead on a parallel suit, did not bring a case at that time. In the first week of January 2017, before Trump became President, I sat down with Eric Schneiderman with a stack of legal precedent, and told him that New York State should sue the President for violating the Constitution, because the violations were happening right here in New York. A parallel emoluments suit in New York is long overdue.
10 https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/business-corporation-law/bsc-sect-1101.html; New York Consolidated Laws, Business Corporation Law - BSC § 1101. Attorney-general's action for judicial dissolution