The Republican National Committee (RNC) has a RICO problem.
While the media and Democrats salivate over the investigation into the Trump crime family, pundits are ignoring a much bigger fish — one involving hidden money behind Super Pacs, political non-profits and sitting members of Congress.
This is far more pressing than the potential charges against the administration. Legal challenges will likely take years before any sort of justice is paid Trump or his children and their organization.
RICO is More Likely Than Impeachment
If US House of Representatives manages to initiate impeachment proceedings, it is doubtful the current Senate will take any action. In order to confirm an impeachment, 67 Senate votes are needed. Critics complain this is evidence the Republicans are protecting Trump, placing party over the nation.
That may not be entirely accurate.
To many people, it seems odd Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is currently the most disliked sitting member of Congress, continues to act in a manner which appears to be destroying his more than 40-year political career.
In fact, in light of public outcry, the GOP adopted the unusual strategy of shrugging their shoulders and avoiding any congressional responsibility for oversight, as if they truly don’t care. Their only defense they offer is to claim it is a “witch hunt” while obstructing attempts to get at the truth.
The future of the RNC is bleak. Voters are almost as likely to be an Independent as a Republican. According to the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, only 29% of party registrations designate themselves as Republican, 40% identify as Democrat and 28% are Independent. Conservatives are not only aging, but the party is literally dying.
So why are these politicians committing political suicide?
The GOP may not be protecting Trump, but attempting to stave off an RICO investigation into their own the Republican National Committee (RNC).
A RICO Primer
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) became law in 1970. The purpose was to prosecute criminal groups such as the Mafia, and later applied to white collar crime.
RICO is a sustained pattern of criminal activity, “racketeering”, within an “enterprise”. Any group of individuals, whether a business, organization, club, or loose association may be deemed an enterprise.
Racketeering includes offenses often related to organized crime. These are unlawful acts such as extortion, narcotics, trafficking stolen goods, murder, kidnapping and arson. It also includes white collar crimes of bribery, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice, as well as money laundering. These last two should be of special concern to the RNC.
A Pattern of Racketeering = RICO
There must be an established pattern of racketeering activities. When at least two separate instances occur within a ten-year period, the requirement is met. In H.J. Inc. v. NW Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229 (1989), the Supreme Court ruled that two acts may not be sufficient:
“criminal conduct forms a pattern if it embraces criminal acts that have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events.”
The court ruled a pattern required “continuity plus relationship” among the crimes. This means the crimes must be related and not isolated, and must take place over a substantial period of time.
The RICO Act prohibits:
- Income generated by racketeering activity to acquire interest in an enterprise.
- Using racketeering activity directly to acquire control over an enterprise, such as extortion or bribery.
- Any individual associated with an enterprise from participating in the affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. This applies to those with some authority in the operation, such as managers or decision makers.
- Conspiring to do any of the above.
RICO allows the government to group illegal activities into one case and bring charges in federal court. In situations where states are reluctant to pursue charges, federal prosecutors can take down criminal enterprises.
One of the advantages of RICO is that US Attorneys may move to seize assets from defendants before they have their day in court. This renders them unable to flee or use funds to influence witnesses, officials — or mount an effective defense.
It could have significant impact on future campaigns.
Allegations of Money Laundering
Rick Gates and Paul Manafort, each of whom served in an official capacity on the Trump campaign, failed to disclose ties to a foreign power in violation of Foreign Agent Registration (FARA). Allegations that Michael Flynn had done the same ended with a plea of one count of lying to the FBI.
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, pleaded guilty in September to multiple counts of tax fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and perjury. More importantly, evidence showed Manafort was a key agent of change in the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Prosecutors say Manafort worked for Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych from 2010 to 2014. It was at this time they believe Manafort began hiding money in more than 30 foreign banks in Cyprus, St. Vincent, the Grenadines and UK.
According to ABC News, in July 2016, the Republican Party made a controversial change to its platform, adding concessions about Russian incursions into Ukraine. Manafort, who had worked for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, organized the platform change.
In January 2019, Senate Republicans voted to lift sanctions against companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. According to court documents, Manafort received a $10 million loan from Deripaska.
A pattern was beginning to emerge.
RNC Finance Committee
In the Southern District of New York, Trump former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies of his own: five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, and two counts of campaign finance violations in hush money payments.
Cohen served as the Deputy Chairman of the RNC Finance Committee.
In April 2017, the RNC announced Cohen’s appointment in a press release. The page has been removed from the GOP website.
“I am delighted to announce the addition of these longtime friends of the Party and supporters of this administration to our Finance leadership team. Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Louis DeJoy will serve as National Deputy Finance Chairmen….” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles businessman who was a finance vice chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration committees, pitched himself as someone who could get Russian companies off the U.S. sanctions list for a fee, according to court filings.
Broidy has been linked to George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department employee.
Higginbotham pleaded guilty and admitted to conspiring to lie about the source of tens of millions of dollars he funneled into the United States from a Malaysian financier. Higginbotham said he helped arrange the transfer of millions to a law firm owned by Broidy’s wife.
The pattern shows involvement by members of the RNC who had some power in the organization.
Allegations Against the NRA
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles. According to prosecutors, Butina and her “handler” Alexander Torshin planned to become an unofficial conduit of communication for Russia using the Republican Party.
In 2015, NRA members accepted an invitation to visit Moscow, a trip that the gun group’s officials would attempt to downplay. The organization later admitted to receiving about $2,500 in donations from Russian sources. The group claimed the funds were not used for political purposes.
NRA reportedly spent $30 million to help elect Trump in 2016, with total expenditures topping $419 million. The outlay was considerably higher that the $261 million spent in 2012. For some Washington lawmakers, the monies donated over the course of their careers is staggering.
Many of the donations are classified as “dark money” that flows through the gun group’s Institute for Legislative Action, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization which is not required to disclose where the money originated.
It is worth noting that this is the result of a Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United. This case has been long identified as having a negative influence on election money. Republicans have blocked every attempt to reform the laws surrounding campaign funding.
Trump Inaugural Committee RICO Investigation
Trumps inaugural committee raked in a record-breaking $107 million, not only raising eyebrows, but inviting scrutiny by federal investigators.
The subpoena suggests prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York are looking into some crimes which could fit with racketeering charges.
The document suggests investigators may be investigating crimes such as conspiracy to defraud the US, mail fraud, false statements, wire fraud, money laundering, as well as violations of campaign finance and inaugural committee laws.
In February, Michael Cohen testified in front of the House Oversight Committee that he was in contact with officials from the SDNY. More telling is that Allen Weisselberg, the Trump family accountant for almost a half century, has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation with federal investigators. Weisselberg oversees the trust that manages Trump Organization. He was also involved in the Donald J. Trump Foundation which shut down after New York attorney general’s office said it had found a “shocking pattern of illegality.”
For two years, there has been a pattern of Republicans defending Trump and deflecting scrutiny away from his alleged wrongdoings. Were they conspiring to cover up these crimes or merely protecting one of their own?
Russia, Republicans and RICO
Trump may have led investigators to the door of the Republicans as Russian money has largely gone unnoticed — until now.
Sir Leonard “Len” Blavatnik, a Soviet-born British-American businessman, has been financially involved in US politics since 2009–10 to the tune of about $53,000. By 2016, he was heavily supporting the Republican Party, donating some $6.35 million into GOP political action committees. These funds were going to GOP Congressional leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.
In light of the “secret tape” from June 15, 2016 as revealed by the Washington Post, the leadership of the RNC may not be defending Trump as much as protecting their own party from a RICO investigation.
Ryan: The Russian’s hacked the DNC...McHenry: ...to get oppo...Ryan: ...on Trump and like delivered it to...to who?[Unintelligible]McCarthy: There’s...there’s two people, I think,
Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump...[laughter]...swear to God.Ryan: This is an off the record...[laughter]...NO LEAKS...[laughter]...alright?![Laughter]Ryan: This is how we know we’re a real family here. Scalise: That’s how you know that we’re tight.[Laughter]Ryan: What’s said in the family stays in the family.
As in crime family?
Originally published at primepolitical.com on March 16, 2019.