Untitled, Watercolor, 29” x 12.5”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1990, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust
“Instead of a soul, Trump has an open sore.” Bill Moyers, August 17, 2017
I have received pushback for continuing the Trump invective. He is the symptom and not the disease, they argue. With him as symptom, take your pick which diseases afflict us. Even though Trump lacks one, maybe because of that, America’s soul is at risk. I will continue the denunciation so long as the other branches of government and his cabinet excuse, condone, apologize for or, by standing down, remain complicit in his epic betrayal.
As I was posting a discussion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act a couple weeks ago, fake news outlets began disclosing direct evidence to what the circumstantial evidence had strongly pointed throughout Trump’s campaign and his presidency: unmistakable documentation of at least one reason for Trump’s willingness/eagerness to sell America’s soul to Russia: his plan to build another monument to himself, the biggest of all — and smack in the middle of Moscow. Putin would, if the foreplay went as planned, approve it, finance it and help erect it. The phallus would, as with the others, bear a Trump-stamp.
This latest revelation followed another disclosure, Jr.’s, after he was shamed into sharing, the one about a high-level meeting at the New York City edifice where such important people discussed that ever-present, compelling issue: the non-existent Russian adoption program. Given the meeting’s timing and attendees, Russian adoption was central to defeating Hillary. Russian infants should start pouring in after extreme vetting. Why would we suspect otherwise?
Trump, of course, ran (runs) a campaign of deception. Chief among the lies were, and are, his attempts to trick the American electorate into believing he had zero ties to Russia — salacious, collusive, or financial; past or present; failed attempts, in the planning stages or simply grooming a despotic leader whom he admired but hoped to manipulate and outsmart. As with most things Trump, the observable world belies his words. Along with the rest of the civilized world, we can assume that whatever Trump says is at best meant to deceive. That’s not cynicism. It’s verifiable, statistical fact.
It probably matters — it shouldn’t — whether Trump has violated federal and/or state criminal laws, some of which are discussed below, especially if that’s what it takes politically to motivate members of congress to stop breaching and start keeping their oaths of office. Parenthetically, Mueller’s open collusion between his office and that of the New York Attorney General as a failsafe against Trump, Gowdy and their ilk is brilliant. Those members of congress who are concerned about states’ rights can put one in the win column.
What follows is a discussion of some criminal laws we may start hearing more about as the Special Prosecutor/New York Attorney General investigations continue. I’m not saying Trump violated them. We shall see. More importantly, I’m not suggesting any such violations are predicates to impeachment proceedings. Selling America’s soul ought to have been enough.
Untitled, Watercolor, 21” x 29”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1990, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust
FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT (FCPA)
I recently posted about the FCPA, a federal criminal statute that prohibits
(1) US citizens, corporations, companies, businesses and foreign entities that trade on a US market, (2) from bribing — giving, offering or promising anything of value, (3) foreign officials — broadly defined also to include foreign political parties and party officials, candidates for foreign political office and foreign government-owned entities, (4) with the intent to create or maintain business.
Violation of the FCPA carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.
INTERSTATTE AND FOREIGN TRAVEL OR TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING ENTERPRISES ACT (TRAVEL ACT)
A close companion to the FCPA is the Travel Act and more specifically its anti-bribery provisions which criminalize (1) the use of a facility of foreign or interstate commerce — e.g., mail, email, telephone, personal travel, (2) to violate the FCPA — give, offer or promise anything of value, (3) to a foreign official, (4) with the intent to create or maintain business.
Yes, each email, telephone call, text message, fax or flight to, say, the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, constitutes a separate violation, even if it involves only one gift, offer or promise. As with the FCPA, violation of the Travel Act carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.
MONEY LAUNDERING CONTROL ACT (MLCA)
Many criminal violations result in “ill-gotten gains” to the violator — proceeds of some form of illegal activity. Congress saw fit to punish some crimes (crimes that necessitate legitimizing the spoils of specified criminal conduct in order to be able to use them) at significantly lower levels than the act of “legitimizing” those spoils. Whenever the facts can be construed to fall within a violation of the MLCA, prosecutors charge it. Kind of a cherry on top, and it makes relevancy objections to certain evidence less sustainable. A violation of the MLCA carries up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000.00 fine or twice the amount of the money involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.
The law criminalizes financial transactions meant to (1) carry out or promote certain illegal activity, (2) violate certain tax laws, and (3)(a) conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, or (b) avoid a transaction reporting requirement under state and federal laws.
The MLCA specifies the proceeds of a number of different crimes are subject to the Act, both domestic and foreign/international. Among those crimes is the FCPA.
The concept of money laundering is relatively simple. In practice, and discovering it, is not always as simple. People who obtain money through illegal means want to be able to use it. That’s often the point. Except in nominal amounts of dirty money (cash from small drug deals, for example), proceeds derived from specified criminal activity is difficult to use outside accepted monetary systems, systems which are designed and regulated to recognize, report and help root out the proceeds of illegal activities.
Depositing large amounts of money into banks without records showing the legitimate source of funds is suspicious of itself, requiring banks so submit confidential suspicious activity reports to the treasury. Crooks often attempt to disguise the source or true nature of the ill-gotten gains. They do so usually by running the money through “legitimate” businesses or transactions before depositing it into banks. Laundering techniques also include taking large amounts of cash offshore for deposit into banks that maintain client secrecy, possibly in Cypress for example; setting up shell companies to disguise ownership of money; using “cash-based” companies as a front (claiming the large cash deposits come from services as opposed to goods); structuring which includes depositing cash in sufficiently small amounts to avoid financial institutions’ reporting obligations; purchasing cashier’s checks or money orders in smaller amounts; transferring funds from bank to bank or account to account.
Banks themselves are highly regulated to have in place systems to prevent, or expose, laundering operations. They don’t always succeed.
Proceeds of specified illegal activity are sometimes run through real estate transactions as a means to hide the source and “legitimize” it.
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
I previously discussed obstruction.
We may also hear about other federal crimes and their state versions to the extent they exist (in New York) including Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), wire fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud/evasion, securities fraud, and obstruction of justice/congress.
*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.