Official Corruption Prosecutions Drop Under Trump
Table 1: Criminal Official Corruption Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first eleven months of FY 2018 the government reported 340 new official corruption prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 371 for this fiscal year. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate is down 23.5% over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 485.
The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with official corruption- offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (see Table 1).
Compared to five years ago when there were 636, the estimate of FY 2018 prosecutions of this type is down 41.7 percent. Prosecutions over the past year are lower than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 45 percent from the level of 675 reported in 2008 and down 59.1 percent from the level of 906 reported in 1998.
The long term trend in official corruption prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1998 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of official corruption prosecutions of this type recorded each fiscal year. Projected figures for the current fiscal year are shown. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars.
Leading Program Categories
Within the broad category of official corruption, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.
Case types within official corruption are
The single largest number of prosecutions of these matters through August 2018 was for corruption of local government officials. These accounted for about one-third (32.9%) of all prosecutions.
The prosecution of state officials for corruption accounted for about one in ten (10.9%) of prosecutions. Most of the remaining prosecutions involved alleged corruption at the federal level. These included corruption offenses by federal law enforcement officials (10.3%), in federal programs (7.1%), in federal procurement (6.2%), and miscellaneous other federal corruption offenses (19.7%). No federal/state/local breakdown was provided for the remaining 12.9 percent in Justice Department records.
Leading Investigative Agencies
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was the lead investigative agency on half (49.7%) of these prosecutions.
A diverse array of other federal agencies were the lead investigators on the remaining half. The Postal Service handled one out of every ten - the second most active investigative agency in turning up corruption cases that were federally prosecuted during FY 2018. All remaining agencies accounted for less than 5 percent each. These included the remaining agencies within the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Defense Department, Housing and Urban Development, the Education Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other offices within the Department of Homeland Security.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of official corruption matters filed in U.S. District Court during the first eleven months of FY 2018.
Table 2: Top charges filed
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest projected decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago—down 60 percent—was "Bribery of public officials and witnesses " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 201 ). This was the same statute that had the largest projected decrease—60%—when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
During FY 2017 the Justice Department said the government obtained 1.5 official corruption prosecutions for every one million people in the United States. If pace during the first eleven months of FY 2018 continues at the same rate, official corruption prosecutions for one million people in the United States this year will drop to just 1.1. Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of official corruption prosecutions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts
Table 3: Top 10 districts (per one million people)
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest projected growth in the rate of official corruption prosecutions compared to one year ago—992 percent—was New Mexico. Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest projected growth—336 percent—was Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery) .
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of official corruption prosecutions—56.4 percent—was Western District of Missouri (Kansas City).
TRAC offers free monthly reports on program categories such as white collar crime, immigration, drugs, weapons and terrorism and on selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, ATF and DHS. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions, go to http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports for a specific agency, judicial district, program category, lead charge or judge via the TRAC Data Interpreter.