New York Times op-ed: Why the I.R.S. Should Go After Trump. by Philip Hackney (LSU; moving to Pittsburgh):
The New York State attorney general yesterday filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its directors, accusing the charity and the Trump family of violating campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. It asks that Mr. Trump pay restitution and be prohibited from leading a nonprofit in New York for 10 years.
As a former attorney for the chief counsel of the I.R.S. who specialized in nonprofit organizations, I believe Mr. Trump is also criminally liable for his actions. If I were still at the I.R.S., based on the lawsuit, I would make a criminal referral, on charges of tax evasion or false statements on a tax return, or both.
On the tax evasion charge, the government must demonstrate that the defendant willfully failed to pay a tax he owed and acted to disguise or attempted to disguise that evasion. For a false statement charge, the government must show the defendant willingly signed a return under penalties of perjury, making a materially false statement that he knew was false.
These are not easy charges to prove, but the Trump Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is entrusted with money to be used exclusively for public charitable purposes. Any use of foundation money to benefit himself is akin to theft.
The government could anchor a tax evasion and false statement case upon the multiple instances of self-dealing, as cataloged by the New York attorney general, between Mr. Trump and the foundation. ...
A criminal prosecution may be unlikely for both political reasons and issues of proof, but I still think the I.R.S. has a duty to open an investigation under the egregious set of facts the lawsuit laid out. If Mr. Trump has made false statements on these returns, is it possible he made false statements on other tax returns? He has never released his tax returns, so we have no way of knowing that.
I do not believe these violations are within the norm of mistaken or accidental use. It represents a continued willingness to violate basic charitable norms. He may see it as a petty violation, but it is an enormous breach for the broader community.
The I.R.S. owes it to the public to investigate such egregious acts for criminal violations.