Trump in deep trouble
April 1, 2023 01:16 AM
The hush money case in New York that has led to criminal charges against Donald Trump is just one of a number of investigations that could pose legal problems for the former president, the Associated Press reports.
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, yesterday confirmed that he had been informed that the former president had been indicted on charges involving payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter. The specific charges were not immediately made public.
Trump faces a string of other inquiries as he campaigns for another term in 2024, including a criminal investigation over top secret documents found at his Florida estate, a probe in Washington into his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, and an investigation in Georgia looking into whether he and his allies illegally interfered in the state’s 2020 election.
Of all the inquiries Trump faces, a Justice Department probe into the retention of top secret government documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, could present the most significant legal jeopardy, with investigators saying in court filings last year that they were examining potential violations of multiple felony statutes.
As part of that inquiry, agents and prosecutors have spent months interviewing multiple people close to Trump, including an aide who was seen on surveillance video moving boxes of documents at the property, as they examine whether Trump or his representatives sought to obstruct the classified documents probe.
Federal officials obtained a search warrant last year to search his home, convincing a Florida judge there was probable cause of criminal activity there, including the willful retention of national defence information – a statute that by itself carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
A grand jury in Washington has been hearing evidence in the investigation. Prosecutors last year granted limited immunity to one close Trump ally to secure his testimony and more recently were able to compel the testimony of a Trump lawyer said to have drafted a document stating that a diligent search for classified records had been conducted.
Attorney General Merrick Garland in November named Jack Smith, a veteran war crimes prosecutor who previously led the Justice Department’s public integrity section, to serve as special counsel for the Mar-a-Lago investigation and key aspects of a separate probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
2020 election and Capitol riot
Smith has also been leading a team investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election that Trump falsely claimed was stolen. Federal prosecutors have been especially focused on a scheme by Trump allies to put forth a slate of fake presidential electors in key battleground states who falsely declared that Trump, not Democrat Joe Biden, had won the 2020 election. They have issued subpoenas to a number of state Republican Party chairs.
Federal prosecutors have brought multiple Trump administration officials before that grand jury for questioning, including the former Trump White House counsel and a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence. A federal judge recently ruled that Pence would have to testify before the grand jury, though his team was still deciding Thursday whether to appeal.
In a sign of the expanding nature of the investigation, election officials in multiple states whose results were disputed by Trump have received subpoenas asking for past communications with or involving Trump and his campaign aides.
A House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has recommended that the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Trump and associates who helped him launch a wide-ranging pressure campaign to try to overturn his 2020 election loss.
After his 2020 election loss, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and urged him to “find 11,780 votes” — just enough to overtake Biden and overturn Trump’s narrow loss in the state.
That Jan. 2 phone call was part of a monthslong effort by a special grand jury in Atlanta investigating whether crimes were committed as part of the pressure campaign to overturn Trump’s defeat.
Among those questioned by the special grand jury were Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump lawyer; Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Prosecutors have advised Giuliani and Georgia Republicans who served as fake electors that they are at risk of being indicted. The fake electors signed a certificate asserting Trump had won the election and declaring themselves the state’s electors, even though Biden had won the state and Democratic electors had already been certified.
Trump and his allies have denied wrongdoing, and he has repeatedly described his phone call to Raffensperger as “perfect.”
It’s up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, to decide whether to convene a regular grand jury and pursue criminal charges in the case. The foreperson on the special grand jury that investigated the case at Willis’ request indicated publicly in February that the panel had recommended multiple indictments.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump and the Trump Organization, alleging they misled banks and tax authorities about the value of assets including golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits. That lawsuit could lead to civil penalties against the company if James, a Democrat, prevails. She is seeking a $250 million fine and a ban on Trump doing business in New York. Manhattan prosecutors investigated the same alleged conduct but did not pursue criminal charges. A civil trial is scheduled in state court for October.
In a separate civil case in federal court in New York, Trump has been accused of raping a former magazine columnist in a dressing room in the mid-1990s. That case is scheduled to go to trial on April 25. Trump has repeatedly insisted he never met the columnist, E. Jean Carroll, at the store and has dismissed her rape claims, saying, “Physically she’s not my type.” During an October deposition, he misidentified a decades-old photograph of her as one of his ex-wives.