Defamation, election tampering, US Capitol attack: Donald Trump’s (other) legal troubles

New York prosecutors took a historic step last Thursday by filing criminal charges against Donald Trump, the first time this has happened to a former US president.

The decision by the Manhattan District Attorney to charge Trump for hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, during his 2016 campaign, is just one of the many probes facing the Republican as he makes another run at the White House.

Georgia election tampering

A prosecutor in the state of Georgia is investigating Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state.

The investigation focuses in part on a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, on 2 January 2021. Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss in Georgia.

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney and a Democrat who will ultimately decide whether to pursue charges against Trump or anyone else, told a judge on 24 January that a special grand jury had completed its investigation task and that decisions were “imminent.”

Legal experts said Trump may have violated at least three Georgia criminal election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

Trump could argue that his discussions were constitutionally protected free speech.

US Capitol attack

The US Justice Department has investigations under way into both Trump’s actions in the 2020 election and his retention of highly classified documents after departing the White House in 2021.

Both investigations are being overseen by Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor and political independent. Trump has accused the FBI, without evidence, of launching the probes as political retribution.

A special House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly 6 January 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the US Capitol urged the Justice Department to charge Trump with corruption of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and inciting or aiding an insurrection.

Only the Justice Department can decide whether to charge Trump, who has called the Democratic-led panel’s investigation a politically motivated sham.

Missing government records

US Attorney General Merrick Garland also appointed Smith to investigate whether Trump improperly retained classified records at his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate after he left office in 2021 and then tried to obstruct a federal investigation.

Garland also appointed former US Attorney Robert Hur to investigate the removal of classified records in President Joe Biden’s possession dating to his time as vice president.

It is unlawful to willfully remove or retain classified material.

AS IT HAPPENED | Donald Trump becomes first former US president to face criminal charges

In Trump’s case, the FBI seized 13 000 documents from Mar-a-Lago in an 8 August search. About 100 documents were marked classified; some were designated top secret, the highest level of classification.

Trump has accused the Justice Department of engaging in a partisan witch hunt.

New York attorney general civil suit

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump and his Trump Organisation last September for fraud.

James said her office found more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations between 2011 and 2021, and that Trump inflated his net worth by billions of dollars.

The attorney general said the scheme was intended to help Trump obtain lower interest rates on loans and better insurance coverage.

She also said her probe uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and referred it to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.

The civil lawsuit seeks to permanently bar Trump and three of his adult children from running companies in New York state, and recoup at least $250 million obtained through fraud.

READ | Trump criminal case: Who is Stormy Daniels – the porn star at the centre of the historic case?

Trump, a Republican, has called James’ lawsuit a witch hunt, and the defendants have called the claims meritless. James is a Democrat.

A New York judge ordered an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization before the scheduled October 2023 trial.

Defamation

E Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, has filed two lawsuits accusing Trump of defaming her by denying he raped her in New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996.

Carroll first sued Trump after he told a reporter at the White House in 2019 that he did not know Carroll, that “she’s not my type,” and that she lied to drum up sales for her memoir.

The second lawsuit arose from an October 2022 social media post where Trump called the rape claim a “hoax,” “lie,” “con job” and “complete scam.”

That lawsuit includes a battery claim under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gave adults a one-year window to sue their alleged attackers even if statutes of limitations have expired.

Trump and Carroll are awaiting a decision from a Washington, DC, appeals court on whether, under local law, Trump should be immune from Carroll’s first lawsuit. The second lawsuit could go to trial on April 25, after a U.S. judge in January called Trump’s bid to dismiss it “absurd.”


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