Donald Trump could face jail over his tax affairs if he is not re-elected in November, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman has claimed.
The renowned lawyer, who investigated former President Richard Nixon’s tax activities as part of the Watergate investigation, said the president and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, could face up to five years in prison for a “whole series of activities that could qualify as tax fraud, not tax avoidance.”
Trump has strenuously denied claims made in an investigation by the New York Times that the president paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years and just $750 in federal income taxes in the two most recent years of the newspaper’s probe—2016 and 2017.
Akerman said there was activity alleged in the Times report that could result in a criminal conviction.
Speaking to CNN host Erin Burnett, Akerman said: “It looks like Trump has done a whole series of activities that could qualify as tax fraud, not tax avoidance. This is a very important distinction. The New York Times headline read ‘Trump’s Tax Avoidance,’ but there is a key difference with tax fraud.
“Tax avoidance is simply taking the tax code and getting the most deductions you can get under the code that is perfectly legal,” Akerman told Burnett. “Tax fraud, however, is lying about what your income was, lying about what your deductions are, and there’s a couple of items that just stand out in that report from the New York Times that really appear to go beyond tax avoidance.”
“The most glaring one is this one on the consulting fees. Some $747,622 that the New York Times was able to tie into payments that went to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. There is no legitimate reason for her to get those consulting fees since she was being paid already as a Trump employee,” Akerman said. “The only possible reason for doing this was to somehow move money around so that it wouldn’t be taxed to Donald Trump but would in effect go on Ivanka Trump’s tax return, who probably had certain losses that she could take against it. So in the end, the government gets zero dollars.”
Asked by Burnett if he thought Trump could end up going to jail if he wasn’t re-elected, Akerman said: “No question about it, and his daughter could go to jail too. Tax evasion is a five-year felony, it is a pretty serious crime and the more money that is stolen the longer you go to jail for.”
“It is a pretty serious crime and the more money that is stolen the longer you go to jail for,” he said, adding, “The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president.”
The DOJ is currently guided by a 2000 Office of Legal Counsel memo stating that a sitting president cannot be indicted—guidance that is “far from being definitive” and could be reconsidered by the department, according to Lawfare.
As it stands, should Trump lose the general election in November, “any decent prosecutor looking at this evidence would be able to put together a pretty viable tax case,” Akerman said, adding that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. is currently probing Trump’s financial records.
Ex-Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman says the NYT’s report on Trump’s taxes shows that both he and his daughter, Ivanka could face legal liabilities. “The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president.” pic.twitter.com/kOytMsQTgQ
— CNN (@CNN) September 29, 2020