Being “associated” with President Donald Trump is “the biggest crime you can commit in America today” amid the Russia probe and the targeting of Trump’s businesses, Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz warned Monday on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends.”
“Look, the biggest crime you can commit in America today is to have been associated with Donald Trump,” Dershowitz said, pointing to the legal woes of former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“If you’re associated with Donald Trump, they’re going to Manafort you, they’re going to Cohen you, they’re going to do all of these things to you,” Dershowitz said. “They’re going to look hard and they’re going to search and they are going to stretch. And you know, maybe they will find something. Maybe they won’t.”
Manafort was convicted last week on eight of 18 criminal counts related to financial and tax fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts. Although Manafort found himself in special counsel Robert Mueller’s crosshairs as part of the probe into allegations of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests, none of Manafort’s charges were linked to the campaign.
Cohen — who once told Vanity Fair that he would take a bullet for Trump — now claims that Trump told him to violate campaign finance laws in 2016 by paying off two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal —alleging affairs with Trump years before his presidential race. Cohen reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors last week on eight felony counts — two of which concerned campaign finance law violations.
Now the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), which prosecuted Cohen upon a referral from Mueller, is looking into the Trump Organization and the payments Cohen made. Both Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker were granted immunity in the case.
“Well, I’ve said from day one that the greatest risk to President Trump, his presidency, and his businesses are in the Southern District of New York, not with Mueller,” Dershowitz said. “I think people who support President Trump ought to hope that the businesses were conducted entirely aboveboard. Or if there are minor violations, they’re corporate violations, not personal violations.”
Dershowitz said Trump’s lawyers should focus more on the SDNY than Mueller.
“But the president has to be focused on this, concerned about this, and the legal strategy has to be looking at Southern District more than looking at the Mueller investigation because the defenses to the Mueller defenses are constitutional in nature and the president can’t be indicted,” Dershowitz added. “But the investigations in New York don’t have the same kind of constitutional defenses.”
Although Trump cannot be indicted as a sitting president, his businesses can be, Dershowitz warned.
“They can look into loans that he may have secured, foreign investments, foreign involvements. And he has fewer defenses,” Dershowitz said. “If I were Trump’s lawyers, I would be focusing all of my defense efforts on the Southern District — and let the Mueller probe go. I don’t think [the Mueller probe] is going anywhere, but the Southern District raises some real red flags for Trump’s businesses.”
“If you look hard enough, you’re going to find something. They’re looking very, very hard,” Dershowitz insisted.
After witnessing the targeting of Trump, his campaign, and his businesses, Dershowitz predicted that “the only people who are going to run for office now are going to be independently wealthy people who don’t have to rely on their businesses, or people who come from backgrounds where there is no vulnerability at all.”
“If they can target President Trump, they can target you, they can target anyone. That’s the problem.”
Businessmen are going “to be deterred from running for office because they know it’s going to result in a kind of legal colonoscopy of everything they’ve done from the day they started out in business,” Dershowitz lamented.
“It’s the Al Capone approach. ‘If we can’t get them on the grounds that we would like to get them on, let’s go after them on taxes, let’s go after them on business,'” he said. “It is targeting people. And if they can target President Trump, they can target you, they can target anyone. That’s the problem.”