Bob Mueller’s Russia investigation may be ending soon, but it is also closing in on President Donald Trump. There continues to be new information revealed from special counsel Mueller, and none of it is good news for Trump.
Last year we obtained information saying that Mueller had added to his team the top investigators and prosecutors with experience in organized crime. Commentators with prosecutorial experience pointed out that Trump’s business operations were run like a mob operation. This is why Mueller brought in those specialists.
A recent report in VICE News has exposed information about Mueller’s team which indicates he has brought in a new group of specialists that he needs to complete his investigations: bribery experts. According to VICE, these experts are working to investigate the favors given between Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and to compile evidence of possible bribery.
The report says that a senior Mueller prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, was the head of the Criminal Fraud Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In that role he made decisions about anti-bribery policy at the highest level possible. Another Mueller team member, Greg Andres, was in charge of the Justice Department’s foreign bribery program.
David Montero, author of Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network, said in an interview with VICE:
“Mueller brought in expertise in the way these deals are arranged to look very innocuous. The thing about bribery deals is they’re always arranged to look very legitimate.”
The article mentions reports from last November which said that as presidential candidate Donald Trump pursued a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, members of his business team offered a $50 million penthouse in it to Vladimir Putin as what they called a “marketing ploy.” But most people thought it was in fact a bribe.
According to the report, the offer to Putin was “just one of many kickback-type situations swirling around Trump and others involved in his campaign.”
Prosecution of bribery cases has been increasing in recent years due to new laws that criminalized bribery. In the U.S. the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to bribe foreign officials. According to Montero:
“It was a moment of reckoning that gave birth to this law. These kickbacks were not only affecting our image; they were potentially destabilizing our allies and feeding into the hands of some of our enemies.”
But despite these laws, bribery is still a huge problem — especially in Trump‘s favored industries of real estate and construction. It is estimated that globally businesses pay an astounding $400 billion to $1 trillion a year in bribes.
Given this background, and given the business history of Donald Trump, it would not be surprising if his relationships with Russia and Putin were built around the exchange of “favors,” most of which were probably illegal.
Whatever happened, we can rest assured that Bob Mueller and his team of world-class prosecutors know about it, and are very likely to add illegal bribery to the long list of charges that they ultimately bring against the President of the United States.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.