Former Gov’t Ethics Chief: Trump’s Financial Disclosure Shows Possible Crime

Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, arrives for a scheduled meeting with the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s recently released financial disclosure report shows he could have committed a crime.

If DOJ investigates and determines that President Trump knew of his debt to Cohen when he filed last year’s report, there will be reason to suspect that his omission of the debt from last year’s report was ‘knowing and willful,’ which would be a crime,” Shaub, now the senior director for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told TPM in a statement Wednesday.

Shaub was referring to OGE’s letter to the Department of Justice Wednesday citing Trump’s financial disclosure.

Trump’s payment of between $100,000 and $250,000 to his personal attorney Michael Cohen last year, the OGE’s acting director wrote, is “required to be reported as a liability.”

In a tweet Wednesday, Shaub wrote that the letter was “tantamount to a criminal referral.”

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has said the President “didn’t know the details” of the payment to Daniels. Shaub said in an interview with CNN Wednesday that it was “implausible” Trump didn’t know the details of the payment.

In his letter to the DOJ, Apol referenced a complaint from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington over Trump’s non-disclosure of the debt he owed Cohen.

On Wednesday, that group filed another complaint

“The president has an obligation to be transparent and truthful about his financial interests, and knowingly failing to do so can be a serious criminal offense,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Read Shaub’s full statement below:

“The release of President Trump’s financial disclosure report today confirms that his debt to Michael Cohen should have been disclosed in last year’s report. President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claims the president didn’t know about the payment when he filed that report last year, but this explanation seems implausible. For one thing, Giuliani admits that the president started repaying his debt to Cohen months before he filed his financial disclosure report.

In this context, we at the Campaign Legal Center were heartened to see that the acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics, David Apol, referred the matter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It remains to be seen whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) will step up and do its job. If DOJ investigates and determines that president Trump knew of his debt to Cohen when he filed last year’s report, there will be reason to suspect that his omission of the debt from last year’s report was ‘knowing and willful,’ which would be a crime. I note that no one from the Trump camp asked OGE last year whether the debt was reportable and that, instead, President Trump’s attorney asked OGE to allow him to be the first filer in history to be excused from the obligation to certify that his report was true.”

This post has been updated.

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