Former top IRS lawyer says Trump may have acted criminally


Philip Hackney, a former top IRS lawyer, is urging the agency to investigate Trump based on the charges laid out in a new lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general.

A former attorney for the chief counsel of the IRS who specialized in nonprofit organizations says he believes Trump acted criminally by using his personal nonprofit, the Trump Foundation, to evade taxes and by making false statements on his tax filings.

Writing in an op-ed for The New York Times, Philip Hackney urged the IRS to launch an investigation into the Trump Foundation based on the allegations laid out in a lawsuit filed this week by the New York attorney general, saying he believes Trump is "criminally liable" in the case.

The lawsuit, which was filed against Trump, his three oldest children, and the Donald J. Trump Foundation, alleges that Trump used his personal nonprofit organization for "persistently illegal conduct" that violated both state and federal laws.

According to the New York attorney general's office, the nonprofit was used as a front to cover for "repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests."

The lawsuit also charges that Trump used the foundation for "extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign," including raising more than $2.8 million "designed to influence the 2016 presidential election."

In filing the civil lawsuit, the New York attorney general also referred the case to the IRS, requesting that the agency look into the foundation for potential violations of tax laws.

Hackney, who served as a top lawyer at the IRS from 2006 to 2011, says the agency "owes it to the public to investigate such egregious acts for criminal violations."

Trump is "criminally liable for his actions," Hackney wrote.

"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," he added.

Hackney described how the government could make its case, saying it 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."

"The attorney general details occasions when Mr. Trump directed the foundation to acquire expensive things like paintings of himself for himself," he noted.

"These acts fail to meet the basic requirement of a charitable organization to operate exclusively for charitable purposes. Yet Mr. Trump signed tax returns year after year through 2014 stating that these expenditures went for charitable purposes," Hackney pointed out.

Hackney acknowledged that IRS prosecutions are typically reserved for continuous offenders who display brazen disregard for the law. But, he added, that's exactly the type of conduct Trump allegedly engaged in.

"I do not believe these violations are within the norm of mistaken or accidental use," he wrote in reference to Trump's actions. "It represents a continued willingness to violate basic charitable norms."

He also pointed out that there could be additional evidence of criminal behavior on other tax returns, saying the IRS "has a duty to open an investigation under the egregious set of facts" laid out by the New York attorney general's lawsuit.

"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," Hackney wrote.

Republicans may have let Trump get away without releasing his tax returns, but now he's finding out the hard way that the long arm of the law has a way of catching up with grifters like him.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.