GOP scrambles to figure out what Trump legal drama means for future
Senate Republicans are scrambling to figure out how former President Trump’s mounting legal troubles will affect his grip on the party and chances of running for office again in 2024.
Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has worked behind the scenes to counter Trump, are wondering whether the former president’s clout may fade regardless of what happens in the 2022 midterm elections because of his many legal entanglements, including investigations by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis (D).
The latest development came Monday evening when Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, severed ties with him and his business empire and said it could no longer vouch for the reliability of a decade’s worth of financial statements it prepared for the Trump Organization.
The revelation came after James said her investigation found evidence that Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of properties to obtain loans and tax deductions.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, called the statement by Trump’s accounting firm “very unusual.”
“I’ve never seen that happen to an ongoing entity. They did also in their statement say that they didn’t see anything of a substantial nature … that suggested there had been misreporting, but it will obviously create a great deal of anxiety inside the organization and an effort to find what that problem was,” he added.
Romney said he couldn’t know exactly why Mazars decided to cut its ties with the Trump Organization.
“I presume they believe they’re avoiding some liability of their own for reports they put out that they may feel were inaccurate,” he said.
Asked about the ongoing investigations into Trump’s business dealings, one senior Senate Republican told The Hill that “obviously they could” affect his decision to run for the White House in 2024 or his viability as a candidate.
“What the Southern District of New York decides to do, document discovery, all those could make a difference,” the senator added, requesting anonymity to comment on a sensitive topic.
CNN reported in August that federal prosecutors in Manhattan suspected that longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg committed perjury during an investigation of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen. That could become relevant now that Manhattan’s district attorney has charged the Trump Organization with an alleged 15-year tax fraud scheme.
Weisselberg and attorneys for the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty, and a trial is expected to start later this year.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is conducting a criminal fraud investigation of the Trump Organization that James is participating in.
The New York attorney general’s office, headed by James, is also conducting a civil investigation of Trump’s business dealings.
At the center of those investigations is the question of whether Trump committed fraud by overstating the value of his assets to obtain loans.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) and other GOP lawmakers are trying to figure what it all means politically, given that Trump is viewed as the party’s de facto leader.
“I suppose it probably depends on how this all plays out,” he said. “I assume there are other accounting firms out there that they can employ, but clearly they’ll have to answer the questions around it.”
“All I know is what has been reported,” he added. “Those are questions that his organization, they’re going to have to respond to and have to answer, I assume.
“Their financial records have been under attack for a long time, been looked at for a long time,” he noted. “At this point I think it’s all part of a broader narrative, and we’ll see where it leads.”
One key question is whether Trump misled his own accountants.
A new letter from Mazars instructing the Trump Organization to explain that statements of financial condition made from 2011 to 2020 are no longer reliable raises questions about whether they contain significant inaccuracies.
The Trump Organization released a statement emphasizing that Mazars’s “work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards and principles and that such statements of financial condition do not contain any material discrepancies.”
Mazars provided its instruction regarding the reliability of past financial statements and announced its decision to separate from the Trump Organization in a Feb. 9 letter that was included in new court documents filed by James’s office.
The Trump Organization has pushed back against James’s investigation, calling it “baseless.”
Mazars’s decision to distance itself from the Trump Organization raises speculation among Senate Republicans that there may be more shoes to drop in Trump’s legal battles.
Romney said the decision by Trump’s longtime accounting firm to distance itself from the former president “could mean a lot of things, some not so bad, other that would be more troubling.”
“Time will tell. There’ll be, I’m sure, effort to look underneath a lot of rocks,” he said.
“Although I can say that there have been predictions for I don’t know how many years now that, ‘Oh my goodness, the shoe is going to drop, the Trump Organization and the former president are in big trouble.’ Nothing’s happened so far and so I’m not holding my breath in that regard one way or the other,” he added. “To quote the president, ‘It is what it is,’ so we’ll see what finally develops.”
—Updated at 7:20 p.m.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.