Donald Trump May Have Broken 'Foreign Corrupt Practices,' Arms Sales Laws In Ukraine Call, Defense Experts Say

In a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Donald Trump responded to a request from Zelensky to buy Javelin anti-tank missile systems for the country's ongoing war against a Russian invasion by demanding that Zelensky do him "a favor," as The Inquisitr reported. That "favor" was to "investigate" Trump's potential 2020 election opponent, Joe Biden.

But the United States Department of Justice immediately announced that it had cleared Trump of any violation of campaign finance laws, according to an ABC News report.

According to a new analysis by the military news site Breaking Defense, the DOJ clearance is likely not the end of Trump's criminal liability. Citing multiple defense experts, Breaking Defense reported that by demanding a "favor" from Zelensky before authorizing the sale of weapons, Trump apparently violated arms export laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Foreign military sales, such as U.S. sales of arms to Ukraine, are "designed to be walled off to the greatest extent possible from political interference or other forms of manipulation," according to former Pentagon acquisitions official Andrew Hunter, quoted by Breaking Defense. A president may halt or delay the arms sales only for specific reasons defined in federal law, Hunter said.

But nothing Trump said in the call to Zelensky "was based on the conditions and restrictions currently described in statute," Hunter told the site.

Soldiers fire a Javelin missile.
Getty Images | Scott Barbour
Soldiers fire a Javelin anti-tank missile.

According to an analysis by Vox, Trump's apparent strong-arming of Zelensky to force Ukraine to smear one of his political rivals could also violate laws against bribery and extortion — and the White House attempts to cover up a memo detailing the call may also constitute obstruction of justice.

But another expert in arms exports, who spoke to Breaking Defense only on the condition that his identity would not be revealed, Trump appears to have broken laws spelled out in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, which prohibits any offer of money "or anything of value" to a foreign official "to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity."

"Seems pretty clear to me," the expert told Breaking Defense.

"If a client disclosed they had done such a thing, I would immediately bring in criminal defense counsel."
The expert, described by the site as "very experienced" in the arms export field, said that the transcript of Trump's call showed "highly improper" conduct by Trump, adding that the FCPA "appears to have been criminally violated here."

Because a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion prohibits federal prosecutors from indicting a sitting president, as The Inquisitr reported, if Trump were to face criminal charges over the Ukraine call, those charges could not be filed until he leaves office.