Ethics Office Refers Trump to DOJ For Criminal Violation

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Needless to say yesterday was a YUGE news day in Washington, D.C., and it was hard to stay on top of every story that broke during the day.  One important thing happened that seemed to get lost in the shuffle — the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sent a letter to the Department of Justice telling them that the President of the United States had committed a crime.

Specifically, Acting OGE Direct David Apol wrote a letter to Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the Cohen payment had not been reported as the law required:

“In a letter, Acting Director Apol told Deputy USAG Rosenstein that concluded the payment made to meets the disclosure requirement for a reportable liability In other words, the should have disclosed it under US law.”

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What is extraordinary is that David Apol was appointed to his position by Donald Trump after the previous OGE Director resigned in disgust over Trump’s unethical behavior.  So for Apol to make a criminal referral to the DOJ was truly a newsworthy event.  This is the kind of action that leads Donald Trump to fire his appointees, but apparently Apol has the integrity to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

Former OGE Director Walter Shaub said that Apol’s letter had the effect of being a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, which the ethics office has the power to do when it finds ethical violations.

This is tantamount to a criminal referral. OGE has effectively reported the president to DOJ for potentially committing a crime. Dave Apol comes through in the end!!”

In the letter Arpol tells Rosenstein that he may find this information “relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing.”

 “NEW: Ethics office sending letter to Rod Rosenstein stating that Michael Cohen’s payment on behalf of Trump was a debt and may be relevant to “any inquiry” Rosenstein may be pursuing.”

In other words, Apol told Rosenstein that the Mueller investigation can use this disclosure information in its investigation of the president.

On the MSNBC show Deadline: White House Michael Avenatti made very clear that this was the kind of evidence that could lead to criminal prosecution of the president, and that there was more evidence yet to come.

In a truly extraordinary day this one small event could make big waves if it leads to the president being charged with a crime.