U.S.

Donald Trump Should Fear New York Prosecutors More Than Mueller, Preet Bharara Says

President Donald Trump has more to fear from the investigations by federal prosecutors in New York than the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a former U.S. attorney.

Preet Bharara was a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017 under President Barack Obama’s administration and during the first two months of Trump’s presidential term.

“Unlike the special counsel’s office, the Southern District does not have any kind of circumscribed mandate,” Bharara told Time, saying Trump should worry more about the Southern District than Mueller.

“They are not limited to issues related to collusion or obstruction or interference with the election of 2016. They can look at everything. And that includes bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, you name it.”

Southern District prosecutors are probing hush payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump—namely the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model—as well as the finances of his inauguration committee.  

Mueller, through the Department of Justice, is tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign and agents of the Kremlin.

The president is fiercely critical of the special counsel’s investigation, dismissing it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

But a number of Trump’s associates have fallen foul of Mueller’s probe, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his ex-fixer Michael Cohen, both of whom are facing jail time following their convictions. Others, such as Trump friend and adviser Roger Stone, remain indicted.

One of Cohen’s convictions is for a campaign finance violation relating to a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels, which is under investigation by the Southern District of New York. Cohen alleges Trump directed him to make the payment, a claim the president denies.

Federal prosecutors elsewhere in New York are also investigating aspects of Trump’s business and political life, while the state attorney general is probing his former charitable foundation, which was shut down.

And Democrats are using their control of the U.S. House of Representatives to launch multiple and sprawling investigations into Trump, his finances, his family and his associates.

In an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, Bharara said he thinks the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is "in jeopardy" because of the Mueller investigation.

Trump Jr. has given conflicting comments and testimony to Congress and others about the infamous Trump Tower meeting he helped set up in summer 2016.

The meeting, which he attended, was between members of his father's campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer touting dirt on Hillary Clinton, then the Democratic presidential candidate.

“I haven’t seen all the evidence,” Bharara said. “As a former prosecutor I don’t like to second-guess decisions and anticipate necessarily.”

“I don’t know enough about what his intent was. I don’t know enough about comparing the facts with actual, particular words that he gave when he was testifying.... But I do think, though, based on his testimony and some other things, that Donald Trump Jr. is in jeopardy.”

donald trump getty images President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on March 13. Trump has more to fear from the investigations by federal prosecutors in New York than the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a former U.S. attorney. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Join the Discussion

Editor's Pick