Home » One disgraced ex-president, four trials: Inside Donald Trump’s legal troubles

One disgraced ex-president, four trials: Inside Donald Trump’s legal troubles

by John Jefferson
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Donald Trump has never been more vulnerable and if proof were needed, it can be found in his daily tirades on Truth Social.

Without the privileges and prestige of the presidency to protect him, Mr Trump is facing serious lawsuits and criminal indictments in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington. All while he is running a re-election campaign and is all but officially the Republican nominee for president having locked up sufficient delegates shortly after Super Tuesday.

Federal officials, local prosecutors and individuals are going after him for everything from his private conduct to his political manoeuvering during the 2020 election.

If even one of these efforts proves successful, the US could see a former president behind bars for the first time.

Here, The Independent explains each major case Mr Trump is facing.

A New York ‘catch and kill’ scheme involving ‘hush money’, a porn star and tabloid newspapers

Mr Trump is under scrutiny from officials in New York and this is set to be the first trial the former president will face, beginning on Monday, 15 April

On 30 March 2023, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the former president for allegedly falsifying business records relating to “hush money” payments he made to the porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign to prevent her from revealing an alleged extramarital affair they had had a decade earlier.

Mr Trump faces 34 first-degree felony charges for allegedly working through his former attorney Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to “catch and kill” embarrassing stories, passing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to silence allegations of affairs and a child born out of wedlock, then allegedly falsifying records to conceal the payments.

“We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is leading the prosecution, said in a statement.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty to the indictment and ahead of the trial he was issued with a gag order by the presiding Judge Juan Merchan after the defendant repeatedly attacked the justice’s daughter on social media.

Donald Trump looks on at the New York State Supreme Court (AFP via Getty Images)

An election conspiracy case in Washington DC

In what was supposed to have been the first of Mr Trump’s cases to go to trial, he was indicted on federal charges in Washington, DC, for allegedly trying to overthrow the 2020 election.

The historic moment was the culmination of an investigation that began in November 2022 with the appointment of Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.

On 1 August 2023, a grand jury approved an indictment accusing Mr Trump of conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding and deprivation of civil rights under colour of law, the latter charge using a post-Civil War law designed to prosecute the Klu Klux Klan.

The four-count indictment alleges Mr Trump and his allies knew they lost the 2020 election but sought to cling to power anyway.

They did so, according to federal prosecutors, by pressuring officials to ignore the popular vote, organising slates of illegitimate electors, conducting sham Justice Department investigations into state election counts, coercing then-US vice president Mike Pence to refuse to certify the legitimate election results at a joint session of Congress and then inspiring a mob of supporters to sack the US Capitol on 6 January, a date that now lives in infamy.

Mr Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed he was the victim of political persecution, crying “witch hunt” as he did throughout the Mueller investigation into his alleged ties to Russia in 2018.

The special counsel’s office alleges Donald Trump knew he lost the 2020 election but conspired to stay in power anyway and encouraged the failed insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 (EPA)

“This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that’s leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading [Joe] Biden by a lot so if you can’t beat them you persecute them or prosecute ‘em,” he raged on 3 August.

US district court judge Tanya Chutkan originally set his trial date for 4 March 2024 in Washington, DC, but the Supreme Court is now considering whether Mr Trump is entitled to presidential immunity for acts committed while in office.

In December, Judge Chutkan temporarily paused the case, staying all deadlines to allow for the US Supreme Court to reach a verdict on whether the Trump team’s presidential immunity defence deserved to stand, an argument intended to shield him from all prosecution because of the sensitivity of his duties in the White House.

Special Counsel Smith urged the court to reach a conclusion on the matter as quickly as possible, prompting Mr Trump’s lawyers to liken him to Dr Seuss’s festive misanthrope The Grinch in its filings just before Christmas.

Oral arguments will be heard before the Supreme Court on 25 April.

(Another) election conspiracy case in Georgia

This is perhaps the most complicated case against Mr Trump. On 14 August 2023, Mr Trump and 18 allies were charged in Georgia’s Fulton County for conspiring to subvert the state’s 2020 presidential election results.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating the former president shortly after he left office in 2021.

At the time, an infamous recording had just gone public of Mr Trump pressuring Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” him the 11,780 votes he needed to win the state.

A grand jury empanelled by Ms Willis found that there was persuasive evidence that Mr Trump and 18 co-defendants, including high-profile lieutenants like Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, sought to tamper with the crucial swing state’s election results through various schemes like coercing local officials and attempting to send a slate of false electors to Washington for the final Electoral College certification process.

Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis investigated Donald Trump for allegedly interfering in the state’s 2020 election results (AP)

Mr Trump personally faces 10 charges (Judge Scott McAfee dismissed another three), including violating the state’s RICO organised crime statute. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. He has denied wrongdoing.

The ex-president surrendered to authorities in Fulton County on the evening of 24 August where he was booked, processed and, for the first time, photographed for a mug shot, which he has since begun using for promotional purposes, even selling “MugShot Edition” digital trading cards.

Mr Trump and his co-defendants were due to face arraignment on 6 September but, on 31 August, he entered a not-guilty plea and waived the necessity for it, a move to avoid appearing in court where the judge had already granted permission for cameras to film the proceedings.

The case was then delayed by wrangling over whether Ms Willis should be disqualified based on a romantic relationship with an outside attorney working for her. Ms Willis was not disqualified but Mr Trump and his co-defendants have appealed.

Prosecutors have requested a trial date of 5 August but nothing was set in stone.

A classified documents case in Florida

This is another special counsel prosecution against Mr Trump, this time in Florida.

On 8 June 2023, a federal grand jury indicted Mr Trump on 37 charges for allegedly retaining classified national security information after leaving the White House in January 2021 and then conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements to federal officials when they sought to reclaim the documents.

Nearly two months later, on 28 July, federal prosecutors added three additional charges in the case, accusing Mr Trump and two employees at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, of attempting to delete security footage pertaining to the documents so that it could not be used in a future investigation as evidence.

Stacks of boxes in a bathroom and shower at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida (US Justice Department/AFP/Getty)

The indictments allege Mr Trump recklessly handled sensitive materials he had privileged access to as president, storing classified files in the bathroom and shower at his Florida club.

Mr Trump was also recorded at one of his New Jersey properties in 2021 appearing to brag about possessing a “highly confidential” Pentagon document regarding hypothetical battle plans against Iran.

The former president pleaded not guilty in early August 2023. It has since been suggested that Mr Trump’s plumber, maid and chauffeur could be asked to testify against him.

US district judge Aileen Cannon originally set a trial date of 20 May 2024. But Mr Trump’s lawyers have suggested a start date of 12 August while holding their position that it should be pushed back until after the presidential election in November. Mr Smith, the special counsel, has asked for it to start on 8 July.

Judge Aileen Cannon continues to raise eyebrows with her drawn-out pretrial hearings and occasionally baffling orders about the case.

Ariana Baio and Joe Sommerlad contributed to this report

Read the full article here

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