It was never just about Russia.
When Donald Trump entered the Oval Office in January 2017, he brought with him an ever-evolving cloud of scandal that has hung low over his entire administration. There are currently several ongoing congressional, city, state and federal investigations into Trump’s personal finances and sexual relationships, his real estate company and his family members.
Some — like the lawsuit alleging corruption at the Trump Foundation, twin suits alleging Trump’s D.C. hotel violates the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, and the FBI counterintelligence investigation into alleged Chinese espionage operations at Mar-a-Lago — stem from Trump’s refusal to separate his political career from his real estate empire. Others, like the ongoing House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee probes into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, appear to cover much of the same ground that Robert Mueller tread.
With Mueller’s investigation complete, there are still numerous investigations that pose an acute threat to the President and his family. The probes identified below are most likely to unearth damaging political information or possible criminal conduct.
1. The hush money campaign finance violations
Who is behind it: The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office
What’s the evidence: Prosecutors have reportedly conducted interviews with ex-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, ex-Trump bodyman Keith Schiller, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, American Media chief executive David Pecker, and ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. They’ve gotten ahold of a recording of Trump and Cohen planning how to pay off Stormy Daniels, plus a recording of Cohen talking to Keith Davidson — the onetime lawyer for Daniels and fellow accuser Karen McDougal, an ex-Playbody model. Cohen has also turned over copies of checks signed by Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and Weisselberg reimbursing Cohen for “legal” services, i.e. the money he funneled to Daniels.
Potential jackpot: Proving that the President, weeks before the 2016 election, spearheaded an illegal campaign finance scheme to silence an adult film star with whom he had an extramarital affair — and has lied about it ever since.
Biggest hurdle: The Wall Street Journal, which has led coverage on this story, reports that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are operating under the Justice Department policy that sitting presidents can’t be indicted. They have not signaled that they would try to charge Trump after his term is up, per the WSJ.
Current status: Cohen testified in an open February House Oversight Committee hearing that he was assisting in “ongoing investigations currently being conducted” on the hush money scandal.
Bonus: Cohen identified several senior Trump Organization officials as intimately familiar with the company’s generally sketchy financial practices. They knew that Trump gamed the tax system by strategically inflating or deflating the value of his assets, according to Cohen’s testimony. The House Oversight Committee has issued a subpoena to Trump’s longtime accountant Mazars USA for detailed information on his financial history; Trump recently responded by suing committee chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
2. What’s inside Trump’s tax returns
Who is behind it: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
What’s the evidence: The New York Times documented in exhaustive detail how President Trump and his family underpaid taxes for the Trump Organization, engaging in “dubious tax schemes” and “instances of outright fraud.” Cohen has testified that Trump would inflate or deflate the value of his assets to gain tax advantages as he saw fit.
Potential jackpot: Trump’s tax returns could reveal any foreign income he has, and details about any loans he may have received from foreign-owned banks — essential information to know about any sitting commander-in-chief.
Biggest hurdle: Convincing IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig to turn the returns over. Neal has narrowly tailored his request, asking only for six years of the President’s personal returns and the returns for just eight of his many businesses. But there’s no guarantee the IRS will play ball, and Trump is fighting the request tooth and nail.
Current status: This legal battle is just getting started. Neal made his initial request on April 3, citing Congress’ oversight authority over the executive branch. The Treasury Department has signaled they’ll ignore the committee’s April 23 deadline, despite Neal’s threat to issue a subpoena.
Bonus: The New York Department of Taxation and Finance is also “reviewing the allegations” laid out in the Times’ blockbuster 2018 report, and is “vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.”
3. Questions of pay-to-play corruption at Trump’s inauguration
Who is behind it: The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, with an assist from the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Eastern District of New York
What’s the evidence: Lobbyist Sam Patten pleaded guilty to using straw donors to purchase tickets to Trump’s 2017 inauguration on behalf of his Ukrainian clients. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN and other publications have reported that prosecutors are probing other possible illegal foreign donations and whether any of the money raised was misspent. Ex-Trump advisor and inaugural committee deputy chairman Rick Gates is cooperating with the investigation, per the WSJ. During the Cohen probe, authorities seized a recorded conversation in which ex-Melania Trump adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff told Cohen she was worried about how the inaugural committee was spending money.
Potential jackpot: Revealing that some of the record-setting $106.7 million raised by Trump’s inaugural committee was donated by foreign individuals or other entities trying to buy access to the administration from Day One. Prosecutors are probing crimes ranging from conspiracy against the United States to money laundering to mail fraud.
Biggest hurdle: Tracing any misuse of funds or failure to vet vendors back to Trump himself. The White House has insisted Trump was “focused on the transition at that time,” rather than inauguration planning. But just five days before inauguration, inaugural committee chair Tom Barrack said that Trump was “into every detail of everything.”
Current status: In February, prosecutors subpoenaed the inaugural committee for a treasure trove of information ranging from the “benefits” provided to donors, payments to vendors, and any contributions from foreign nationals.
4. The Trump administration’s sketchy security clearance practices
Who is behind it: House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
What’s the evidence: Whistleblower Tricia Newbold informed Congress that there were some 25 cases in which security clearance issues flagged by career staff were overridden by political staff, including ex-White House personnel security director Carl Kline. Kline allegedly retaliated against Newbold, who has dwarfism, for raising concerns, placing personnel security files out of her reach.
Potential jackpot: Revealing that President Trump personally intervened to override the security red flags that career officials identified in profiles for both his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. When those officials refused to grant them top-level clearance, Trump did so anyway.
Biggest hurdle: The White House has adamantly refused chairman Cummings’ request for relevant documents — especially for Kushner.
Current status: This was one of the first investigations announced after the new Democratic-controlled House was sworn in in January. In early April, the committee voted across party lines to authorize a subpoena for Kline’s testimony. But the White House has instructed Kline not to comply with a subpoena to testify unless a member of the White House counsel team can accompany him, and Kline is following orders.
5. Trump’s history of sexual harassment
Who is behind it: former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos
What’s the evidence: Zervos came forward in October 2016, following the “Access Hollywood” tape leak, to allege that Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007. Zervos is one of over a dozen women who have described similar accounts of Trump physically groping, kissing, and making verbal sexual advances towards them without their consent. Trump has called the women “liars” who were paid to push “100 percent fabricated” stories, and has threatened to take legal action against them. Zervos is suing him for defamation.
Potential jackpot: If the case in New York state court moves forward, Trump may have to testify under oath about his conduct towards Zervos and his other accusers. The Supreme Court famously allowed Paula Jones’ sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton to proceed while he was in office. Clinton’s false sworn testimony in that suit about not having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky ended up forming the basis for his impeachment.
Biggest hurdle: Trump’s legal team has insisted that a sitting president shouldn’t have to face lawsuits brought in state court. They’ve said they will take the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.
Current status: In mid-March, a New York appeals court ruled that Trump had to face the lawsuit, citing the Jones-Clinton case as precedent. The appeal will next head to the New York state Supreme Court.