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  • Writer's pictureShelly Albaum

Trump & RICO: How the DOJ Will Take Down America's Most Notorious Crime Family

I predict that Trump will die in prison, just like the mobster head of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti. But it probably won't be because of Russian collusion, election rigging, or treason.

The Trump Organization looks a lot like -- and is being treated a lot like -- a crime family that can be taken down with RICO.

And under RICO, the kingpin of the criminal organization, Trump himself, can be criminally liable for directing the organization, just like any other mafia don, even if he did not personally participate in the crimes.

Not every crime counts as racketeering, and not all criminal activity is organized. But when the shoe fits, prosecutors have significant tools at their disposal to bring to justice the participants in organized crime. The vagaries of election-influencing-collusion need not come into play.

Colluding with Russia to attempt to influence the 2016 election may be the worst thing that Trump ever did, but the thing he will rot in jail for is more likely to be racketeering.


RICO -- which refers to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- was enacted to prosecute organized crime, mobsters, and crime families.

Robert Mueller took down the Gambino crime family in 1992, and then 19 years later Mueller in 2011 directed the arrest of 127 mobsters in the largest single mafia crackdown in FBI history. Those were just the two most famous of Mueller's many criminal RICO convictions. But it turns out he was just getting started.

Mueller's final act will be to take down the greatest crime family of all time, the criminal organization that has taken control of the White House and much of America's government.

And RICO has been Mueller's go-to statute for more than 30 years.

One day, not long from now, I expect that Mueller and his team of untouchables will be awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom for their contributions to the security of the United States.

Mueller's team isn't made of up "angry democrats." This is the world series of organized crime prosecutions, and Mueller has gathered some of the greatest criminal prosecutors on earth to execute "a classic, Gambino-style roll-up," someone "close to the administration" told the Washington Post in 2017.

Steven Bannon said the same thing: "Mueller's doing a roll-up just like he did with the Gambinos." And so did a former Gambino prosecutor: All the "hallmarks of an organized crime case."

The Gambinos weren't charged with election rigging; they were charged with racketeering.

And I hope when Mueller's prosecutors get their medals that Trump is able to watch the ceremony from a television visible through the prison cell bars.

How RICO Works

The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing.

Under RICO, a person who has committed at least two acts of racketeering activity within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if the acts are related to an "enterprise," and if they show a pattern --- e.g., same participants, same method, same victim, or continuous over a lengthy period.

In Trump's case, "enterprise" could easily be The Trump Organization, whose attorney and CFO is already cooperating with law enforcement.

The list of 35 crimes that can constitute "racketeering" includes money laundering and obstruction of justice, both of which seem highly plausible for Trump's organization.

Here is an article from last year explaining "If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here's How It Works." Given that Deutsche Bank headquarters were recently raided for laundering money and Deutsche Bank has been fined for laundering Russian money -- and given that Deutsche Bank was Trump's "sugar daddy" where Trump got a lot of his money -- it is not at all farfetched to imagine that investigators have connected the dots between illegal Russian funds laundered through Trump properties. Indeed, the Russian lawyer who led the notorious Trump Tower meeting has already been charged with money laundering.

As for obstruction of justice, it's hard to count all the different times Trump himself may have obstructed justice, from firing Comey, to intimidating witnesses, to participating in or directing lies to Congress -- the Brookings Institute lays it all out.

For both money laundering and obstruction of justice, if either is proved it seems likely that the required number of instances would also be provable. So coming up with at least two predicate crimes, and explaining how those crimes were the modus operandi of the Trump organization doesn't sound unlikely at all.

Crime and Punishment

Each count of racketeering can be punished with up to 20 years imprisonment, plus fines and the forfeiture of all ill-gotten gains.

Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is relatively easy to prove, as crimes go, because it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

Given the scope of the Trump organization, the opacity of its finances, and the large number of potentially questionable transactions -- as well as the fact that its lawyer and CFO are cooperating with Mueller -- the possibility of demonstrating patterns of behavior that satisfy RICO seem entirely plausible.

And best of all, relying on RICO bypasses thorny questions about how actively Trump participated in the various schemes, which seems always to be his defense -- Trump didn't know those people, or they were low-level rogues. RICO won't let Trump disclaim responsibility for his own organization's pattern of criminal behavior.

And since RICO convictions could potentially add up to many counts racketeering, and therefore many decades in prison, plus massive forfeitures...

Who needs Russia election collusion?

Again, I don't mean that Russia collusion is unimportant for American politics, or that Trump and his organization should not be culpable for every law they have broken, or that assaults on the integrity of elections ought not to be the most severely punished.

Certainly the patterns of criminal activity that Robert Mueller may uncover could extend far beyond the RICO predicate crimes of money laundering and obstruction of justice.

But they don't have to.

If all you want is for Trump to die poor and penniless in prison, RICO is probably the shortest, straightest route.

And since RICO prosecutions are what Mueller is most famous for, it's hard to imagine that he won't take that route one last time.

And in fact knowledgeable observers say that's what it looks like is happening.

So regardless of the legal questions around collusion and the political questions around election influencing, racketeering looks like a lock.

Which is why I predict that Trump will die in jail.

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