Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

“Conspiracy to Defraud the United States” is a general statute laid out in the US Code of Laws, TItle 18, Chapter 19, Section 371. It also happens to be one of the allegations made by Robert Mueller against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and could potentially be leavened against Trump himself.

But what constitutes a conspiracy to defraud the United States?

To conspire to defraud the US means “primarily to cheat the government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft, or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.” The last bit here is key - I’m talking about “dishonest means.” Trump and associates are dishonest all the time, so much so that Trump’s lawyers have said they worry about him testifying more because he would perjure himself just based on how often he lies. He also has no understanding or interest ing the integrity of the functions of the United States government, which are protected against “defrauding” under Section 371.

The charge itself cannot be made against a single person. It has to be made against two or more people, which is why it works for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. However, this would not necessarily safeguard Trump himself from being charged. In my opinion, it is most likely he would be charged with another person with conspiracy to defraud the justice department, via his firing of James Comey and asking him to see his way to forgiving Paul Manafort. When Comey denied a pledge of loyalty and was subsequently fired, which could meet the grounds of “obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government.” Comey could not perform his duties lawfully by not investigating Manafort’s connections to Russian money, and so he was let go.

To be sure, Trump’s Tweets accusing the FBI of being biased in favor of Clinton and broken posed a threat to the Justice Department and the intelligence community. The same can be said of his Tweets towards Jeff Sessions in which he called him “disgraceful.” The point being that Trump, via personal statements and tweets, provides a well of dishonesty for Mueller to sort through. The more he says and the more he lies, the more likely he is to be indicted on this charge.

Greer Clem