Cohen Raid Brings RICO Into Play

Cohen Raid Brings RICO Into Play

With the raid of Michael Cohen’s office, it is becoming clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had decided to pursue a RICO case against Trump and his associates and perhaps his family.

Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a powerful statute that allows a prosecutor, such as Mueller, to say: “Here is a crime syndicate that is engaged in multiple types of criminal activity” and then to charge every member of that group with all the crimes of the entire syndicate.  RICO enables prosecution for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise, including illegal gambling, bribery, kidnapping, murder, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement, or a handful of other unsavory business practices.

To bring an action against Trump under RICO, Special Counsel Mueller must have evidence that he engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity and that he directly invested in (i.e., maintained an interest in) or participated in a criminal enterprise that affected interstate or foreign commerce.

Clearly, Trump, Michael Cohen, Wilbur Ross and others were engaged in an elaborate scheme to defy the Magnitsky Act in 2013.  Cohen’s actions in funneling that money into taxi medallions may have constituted the second racketeering activity.  The act of threatening Stormy Daniels may have been another.  Violating election finance laws through Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels may have been yet another.  Doing it again through the National Enquirer’s payments to Karen McDougal may have been another.  (I suspect Mueller has a much longer list).

Bringing Cohen into the picture so dramatically shows it no longer about “collusion versus no collusion”.  Proving collusion may have proven too tough.  While there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence of the Trump team’s coordination with Russia, it may be that Mueller cannot find the direct evidence of communication involving Trump himself.  With RICO, Mueller doesn’t need it.

Image: ABC News

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