Hardball: Feds now investigating Lori Loughlin's daughter in college admissions scandal

It’s unclear whether the daughter in question is YouTube star Olivia Jade or her older sister Bella. But if the feds are willing to try to squeeze a guilty plea out of Ma and Pa Giannulli by threatening one daughter, presumably they’re willing to threaten the other eventually as well.

Which means now’s the moment for Loughlin to put those acting chops to use, call a presser, and unleash a teary made-for-TV “you can do what you want to me but leave my girls alone, you monsters” attack on the feds. Public support will skyrocket overnight.

Who knows? President Trump might even see it and shoot her a pardon, one television star to another. If anyone would appreciate a well-executed public tantrum about being persecuted by the DOJ, it’s him.

Multiple sources tell DailyMail.com that one of the actress’ daughters received a target letter from federal prosecutors in Massachusetts earlier this month regarding the Operation Varsity Blues investigation…

‘It is a not-so-veiled threat,’ said one source who has seen the letter.

‘[The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts] is making it pretty clear that they have evidence that very strongly suggests she knew of the illegal plot.’

The sources DailyMail.com spoke with only knew about one of the daughters getting a letter, the tone of which was described as ‘ominous.’

“It is clear that some students are going to be charged,” the Daily Mail’s source added, claiming that they know of five other students who’ve received “letters of intent” from the feds and all five happen to be children of parents who’ve been charged but refused to plead guilty. It’s a leverage play by the Justice Department and probably an effective one: A source tells People magazine that Loughlin is understandably “very afraid that her daughters will have to testify. That will traumatize them even more.” If the prospect of her children being forced to be witnesses in her own trial is weighing on her, imagine what the prospect of them being charged will do.

Although the fact that at least one of them has received a letter of intent means that daughter could and would plead the Fifth rather than testify, right? The feds are after mom and dad, not her. If it came down to it, she could presumably extract immunity from prosecutors in return for her testimony against Loughlin and her father. Which brings us back to the great unsolved mystery: Why didn’t Loughlin take the original plea deal the feds offered and spare her and her kids this ordeal? Did she really think the U.S. Attorney would back down when she refused to plead guilty knowing that many other defendants were watching, waiting to see how the feds would react? If they had offered her a sweeter deal in response, every remaining suspect in the case would have started threatening to go to trial as well.

The Giannulli girls (via their allies) are fighting back in the media, insisting they “didn’t realize the extreme” lengths to which their parents went to get them into USC and that they supposedly thought the $500,000 paid to officials at USC was actually donated for “scholarships” for the crew team. I’ll defer to legal eagles on how much they needed to know about the bribe in order to be criminally implicated; according to Entertainment Tonight’s source, they were at least aware that their parents were in contact with someone who could help them get into USC. Maybe they thought their mother and father were handling this the way rich parents normally do, making a gift to a university forthrightly in the expectation that the admissions office would bear it in mind when their children applied to the school.

A lingering question: Between Loughlin and her husband Mossimo, who’s the real mastermind of this plot? Presumably one of them was more gung ho than the other. “Everyone feels bad for her,” said a source to Us Weekly of Loughlin. “They think the situation was something concocted by her husband,” adding that her friends have never been big fans of his. It seems hard to believe Giannulli’s the ringleader, though, considering that when he was younger he pretended to go to USC and used the “tuition money” his parents gave him to build his (very successful) business. You would think in that case he would have been receptive to OIivia Jade’s plea to skip college and focus on her lucrative social-media “influencer” career instead. If it worked out for him, why not for her?

People’s sources say cherchez la femme:

“Lori was always very impressed when she met a parent who got their child into a prestigious school,” a family source tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

“USC became Lori’s obsession,” the family source says about Loughlin, who is at the center of the nationwide college admissions scandal. “This was the school she wanted her girls to attend.”…

“For most people that they socialize with, schools are very important. It’s very much a status thing,” says the family source. “Parents brag about their children’s schools all the time. So many of the schools are almost impossible to get into.”…

“They are wealthy and successful, live in a gorgeous Bel Air mansion and their daughters are beautiful. But they are also surrounded by families who are even wealthier,” says the family source. “Although it’s hard to understand, these are the families Lori was trying to keep up with.”

Giannulli’s going to end up doing hard time because being crazy rich, famous, and beautiful wasn’t enough for mom. Loughlin should add that to her teary press conference spiel, lip quavering: “If wanting everything for your children is a crime, let me be guilty.”