If Trump Is Ever Indicted for Tax Fraud, It Could Be Long After Presidency

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump could not claim immunity from state criminal subpoenas after Manhattan's district attorney sought to obtain his tax records.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. had issued a subpoena to the president's accounting firm, Mazars, in a bid to obtain a range of Trump's records, including tax returns dating as far back as 2011.

The subpoena came as Vance's office investigated hush-money payments Trump is alleged to have made in the lead-up to the 2016 election to two women who claim to have had affairs with him years ago.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is looking into whether the Trump Organization potentially falsified business records in an effort to hide the payoffs.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, which was decided 7-2, there has been speculation that Trump could potentially be indicted for tax fraud as a result of Vance's probe.

In an interview last week with MSNBC's Joy Reid, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman said he believed Trump should be concerned he could face a tax or bank fraud indictment, now that investigators will be able to obtain his tax returns.

"It's just a matter of time before this evidence gets before the prosecutors, gets put before a grand jury," Akerman said.

More to the point, he said: "What Donald Trump is looking at is the potential that he is going to be indicted for either tax fraud or bank fraud."

While that may be the case, other experts say it is far too soon to speculate on whether Trump will ever be indicted on tax or bank fraud.

Even if he is, they say it could happen long after the president has left office—and with the November election just months away now, Trump's departure could come sooner than later.

"I think it would be very hard for any professor or prosecutor to say whether he can be indicted or not. Of course, if there's a crime, he can be indicted," Prof. Lee-Ford Tritt, a law professor and member of the graduate tax faculty at the University of Florida College of Law, told Newsweek.

Vance's office, Tritt noted, has been up against a race against time, previously arguing that any delay to their bid to obtain Trump's records could impact their ability to file charges.

According to The New York Times, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor falsifying business records count has already passed, while a five-year deadline to bring a felony-level case against the president is also nearing.

At this point, Tritt said, "we don't know what's in [Trump's personal and business records] yet. It might be nothing when this gets done."

Trump's concerns over the contents of his tax records being revealed, Tritt said, could have more to do with a fear of embarrassment than a fear of facing charges.

"People have wanted his tax returns for many reasons and one of those is just to prove that he's not as rich as he says," Tritt said. "Or that he might not be giving enough to charity."

Jeff Hoopes, an associate professor of business at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School, agreed, telling Newsweek that it will likely be difficult to find evidence of wrongdoing in Trump's tax returns.

If Trump has already been audited by the IRS, as he has claimed, then findings likely would have been made then.

If the IRS has looked at Trump's records and so far "concluded that there is nothing that Donald Trump needs to go to jail for," Hoopes said, "that he's going to be indicted, or put in jail or that there would be tax fraud charges seems very unlikely."

What the records might show, he said is that Trump is "not as wealthy as he has made himself out to be."

"I think that to Donald Trump, it's really important to look really, really successful, so...he would be a bit embarrassed about that," Hoopes said.

However, he agreed with Tritt that only time will tell for sure.

"Even if there were something really wrong, these things don't play out very quickly," Hoopes said.

"What happens to all of this if Joe Biden wins [the 2020 election]?" he questioned. "Does all this kind of go away because we won't really care as much?"

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during an event about citizens positively impacted by law enforcement, in the East Room of the White House on July 13, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty