What the Trump Investigations Mean for a Trump Candidacy


Former President Donald Trump is eyeing another run for the White House while facing a host of legal issues, with criminal charges and perhaps a civil lawsuit or two potentially threatening to halt any campaign. While not disqualifying, the cases could pose distractions and produce unflattering revelations that no presidential candidate would welcome. Trump is no normal politician, however, and the legal scrutiny could fuel his favorite narrative that he is being unfairly targeted by the current Democratic administration and a “deep state” bureaucracy.

1. What are the legal cases?

Trump is facing possible criminal charges by the US Department of Justice over classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida home; by the Department of Justice regarding its role in the Capitol Riot of January 6, 2021; and by the Atlanta District Attorney for his attempts to alter Georgia’s 2020 election results. “All of these bodies are active and not subject to his control and could issue an indictment almost at any time,” said Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. On the civil side, Trump’s hurdles include a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James who accuses him and three of his children of fraudulently manipulating the value of company assets for years.

2. Could all this disqualify him as a presidential candidate?

Basically, no. Article II of the US Constitution, which defines the qualifications for the presidency, says nothing about criminal charges or convictions. Trump’s opponents, however, see two possible avenues for challenging his eligibility. One is a federal law prohibiting the removal or destruction of government records: it states that anyone found guilty of the offense is disqualified from federal office. This could possibly apply to Trump if – and it’s a big if – he is charged and convicted for taking classified documents from the White House. The other is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. He says no one can hold a seat in Congress, or “any office, civil or military,” if he “has engaged in an insurrection or rebellion.” At least two advocacy groups have said they would argue it applies to Trump because he instigated and failed to stop the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill as Congress certified the election results. of 2020.

3. Do these cases hurt him politically?

A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 50% of Americans said Trump should face criminal charges for mishandling classified documents. In a Marist poll taken around the same time, 47% of Americans said Trump had done something illegal or unethical and should be charged. But die-hard Trump supporters have proven unwavering. A New York Times/Siena College poll in September found that 44% of voters viewed Trump favorably, similar to the level of support found in recent years. Trump has long tried to sue him and investigate his conduct as politically motivated, calling them “hoaxes” and “witch hunts.” Signs calling for the cut in funding to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the firing of Attorney General Merrick Garland have become common among Trump supporters. “In some segments of his support base, his popularity would be bolstered by criminal charges,” said Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School.

4. What is the status of criminal cases?

• In what may be the gravest criminal danger, the FBI said it found 11 sets of documents bearing classified marks at Mar-a-Lago, including a number marked top secret. In their search warrant, officers said they were investigating a potential violation of the Espionage Act – which makes it a crime to withdraw or misuse national defense information – as well as the obstruction of justice and violation of any law prohibiting the removal or destruction of government records. The lawsuit was bolstered by an appeals court ruling that allowed investigators to use the documents with classified marks despite Trump’s objection.

• The Justice Department has expanded its investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters to include people with ties to Trump. It appeared to raise the possibility that Trump could be indicted for his role in urging his supporters to rally in Washington and then march to the Capitol. Lawyers for the Democratic-led House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee have suggested that Trump and some of his allies could be charged with trying to obstruct congressional certification of the 2020 election and defrauding officials. United States.

• In Georgia, Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating whether Trump broke the law in his attempts to change the state’s 2020 voting results. In a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call , Trump urged Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes for him – one more than Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state.

• Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, faced a criminal trial on October 31 in New York, accused of participating in a 15-year tax evasion scheme. The company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is the only person charged in the case. He pleaded guilty and promised to testify honestly. The tangible consequence of this lawsuit — a possible $1.6 million fine — is relatively minor, but the possible reputational cost to Trump is harder to quantify.

5. Where are the civil cases?

• The New York Attorney General’s civil lawsuit against Trump and three of his children for allegedly inflating the value of his real estate company’s assets is perhaps the biggest threat to the former president’s wealth, as well as his image of successful businessman. James is seeking $250 million in restitution and a permanent ban on the four Trumps from doing business in New York. She has already successfully secured a court order for an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization, a move that could bring unprecedented scrutiny of the former president’s finances.

• Trump could stand trial next year in a libel suit brought by New York columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claims Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. When she brought her accusation in 2019, then-president Trump said Carroll was “not her type” and that she had made up the claim to boost sales of her book. These statements, says Carroll, defamed her. Trump says he is shielded from liability because he was a government employee undertaking an official act when he denied Carroll’s allegation. If that argument fails, a trial could begin in February. Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said Trump defamed Carroll again, this time after leaving office, in a social media post that again denied the rape allegation. A potential libel suit over this position would not be subject to a federal worker protection claim. Carroll’s attorney further said she will sue Trump under New York’s recently enacted Adult Survivors Act, which will open a one-year window for claims that would otherwise be barred under the statute of limitations. .

• Trump, his company and his three eldest children are also facing a class action lawsuit filed in 2018 by four investors who claimed they were duped by Trump promotions into paying thousands of dollars to become independent salespeople with ACN Opportunity LLC, which sold a doomed videophone device that Trump touted as the next big thing. Devices have been rendered obsolete by smartphones. Trump asked questions in October.

• Trump was sued by 12 Democratic lawmakers accusing him of instigating the Jan. 6 riot. Several Capitol police officers also sued Trump for physical injuries and racist abuse suffered on that day. Through appeals, Trump is trying to have the cases thrown out.

• Mary Trump, the former president’s niece, has sued her uncle, late brother and older sister for allegedly defrauding her of his share of the family fortune. Both Trumps await a judge’s decision on the former president’s motion to dismiss. A trial in this case would likely result in decades of family drama tied to alleged rampant financial shenanigans.

• A group of Michigan voters sued Trump and his 2020 re-election campaign for mass voter suppression, particularly among black voters. Trump’s attempt to dismiss the case was partially granted; the Michigan group asked for more time to file a second lawsuit.

–With help from Mark Niquette, Erik Larson and Chris Strohm.

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