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Holding the Fraudster-in-Chief to Account

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On November 20, 2020, we published an eye-opening article titled “The Case for Prosecuting Trump” by former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori. In his compelling piece, Khardori brings attention to the pressing need for accountability in an administration that has consistently operated above the law.

Khardori is no stranger to the world of justice. Having worked as a federal prosecutor specializing in investigating financial fraud, he possesses a wealth of knowledge that he now shares as a legal commentator. His articles have found a home in reputable publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New Republic.

Curious about his sudden rise in demand, I reached out to Ankush Khardori for an interview. When asked about this surge in interest, he humbly attributed it to the extensive investigations centered around the president and his associates. “Many of these matters are complex and obscure unless you have some experience in the government,” Khardori explained. “There is a genuine demand for writers and commentators who can break down these intricate issues into understandable terms.”

However, Khardori expressed concern about the disproportionate media coverage focused on Trump and Barr as personalities. This emphasis, ironically, has diverted attention from the broader deterioration of the Justice Department. While he acknowledges the importance of covering cases like that of Michael Flynn, Khardori believes that the media, as well as commentators, should delve deeper into substantive and institutional matters that have not gained adequate attention, such as the rampant white-collar crime epidemic.

Khardori joined the Justice Department in 2016 as part of the Fraud Section, where he spearheaded a significant investigation into an international fraudulent industry involving “binary options.” He highlighted the ease with which high-volume fraud can be perpetrated through offshore operations and shell companies spread across the globe. These schemes create a collective action problem, as victims are dispersed worldwide.

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Collaborating closely with the FBI, Khardori successfully brought an Israeli businesswoman involved in one of these fraudulent schemes to trial. Lee Elbaz, who had defrauded clients of around $150 million, was apprehended and convicted. Khardori takes pride in his work at the Justice Department but expresses frustration with the lack of strong leadership within the organization. Voicing his concerns led to him becoming persona non grata, ultimately leading to his departure from the department.

Regrettably, the Justice Department’s efforts to combat financial fraud have significantly diminished in recent years. Khardori sees this as a reflection of the larger problems plaguing the Justice Department under the Trump administration. Incompetent individuals assuming positions of authority have far-reaching consequences, negatively impacting the department’s ability to fulfill its crucial role.

Khardori’s disillusionment with the legal profession extends beyond his experience at the Justice Department. Raised in Springfield, Illinois, and educated at Columbia University, he began his legal career at the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison. Although he trained as a litigator and specialized in white-collar investigative work, the firm’s culture, in Khardori’s opinion, was dominated by “truly awful people.”

A detailed investigation by The New York Times confirmed the presence of racial discrimination within the firm, a revelation that Khardori himself believes may be an understatement. These experiences have left him with mixed feelings about practicing law at seemingly elite establishments. He discovered that much of the work entailed tedious tasks, leaving little room for grappling with consequential questions.

Returning to the theme of great importance, Khardori’s previous article touched upon the erosion of the rule of law in the United States, replaced by a system dominated by the rule by law. When asked for an example, he expressed disbelief at the lack of a comprehensive report on the family separation policy, despite it being deemed one of the most morally abominable government policies in recent memory. The absence of a thorough investigation and transparency surrounding this issue is a blatant offense to justice.

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In Khardori’s view, the Justice Department, as an institution, is currently facing one of its most challenging periods in decades. While he believes the Biden administration has the potential to rectify these issues, it will require concerted efforts and political courage.

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