A Guide to Donald Trump’s Legal Perils

From a Wall Street Journal story by it staff headlined “A Guide to Donald Trump’s Legal Perils”:

The prospect of criminal charges in Manhattan is just one of several civil and criminal proceedings on the boil for Donald Trump. Here’s a look at the status of the most prominent investigations and lawsuits involving the former president and declared presidential candidate.

Manhattan criminal case on Stormy Daniels payment

The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence about Mr. Trump’s role in a payment to a porn star appears to be wrapping up its work, indicating that prosecutors could soon ask jurors to vote on an indictment of the former president.

The precise charges the prosecutors are considering aren’t known, but the office is looking at charging Mr. Trump with a felony version of a state offense for falsifying business records, according to people familiar with the matter. The offense is a low-level felony that carries no requirement of prison time. Charging that offense as a felony requires connecting it to another crime, which could bring a host of legal challenges for prosecutors.

A grand jury has been hearing from witnesses involved in the hush-money payment and its aftermath since late January.

New York State civil lawsuit alleging false valuation of real-estate assets

New York Attorney General Letitia James last September filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, three of his adult children and his company, alleging they engaged in a decadelong scheme to falsely value their assets and generated $250 million in ill-gotten gains. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Trump’s financial statements, which were provided to insurers and lenders, included false and misleading valuations, allowing him to reap favorable terms and other benefits.

Ms. James is asking the court for remedies that would effectively cripple the Trumps’ ability to do business in New York. Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the lawsuit by Ms. James, a Democrat, is politically motivated. A trial is set for October.

Georgia investigation into alleged election meddling

Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election and has said she is nearing charging decisions.

Ms. Willis, a Democrat in Atlanta, initially launched the probe on the basis of a recorded Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which then-President Trump urged Republican Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top elections official, to find enough votes to overturn the election. Mr. Trump denies wrongdoing and has said the call was “perfect.”

A special grand jury convened by Ms. Willis heard from 75 witnesses, wrote a report summarizing its findings and recommended criminal charges against multiple people whose identities haven’t been made public. The special grand jury, disbanded in January, lacked the authority to issue indictments, which Ms. Willis can now seek by presenting evidence to a traditional grand jury. Mr. Trump asked a state court on March 20 to scrap the investigation, alleging it had been “tainted by improper influences.”

Mar-a-Lago documents investigation

A Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith, is overseeing a criminal investigation into the handling of classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. The Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, launched Feb. 9, 2022, has expanded to include a criminal investigation into possible obstruction, among other potential crimes.

The National Archives and Justice Department tried for months to retrieve the classified and sensitive government documents in Mr. Trump’s possession, including through an extraordinary August search of his property by federal agents. Prosecutors have said they uncovered evidence that Mr. Trump’s representatives falsely claimed all of the material in question had been returned. Mr. Trump and his representatives deny any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have questioned a number of witnesses, including several of Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Criminal inquiries into Jan. 6 and efforts to overturn 2020 Election

Mr. Smith is also conducting a separate inquiry into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss. The special counsel’s work comes as prosecutors in Washington have brought charges against more than 1,000 people in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that sought to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s win.

Mr. Smith’s team is focusing on Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in power, including attempts by pro-Trump allies to create alternate slates of electors in swing states that Mr. Biden won.

A flurry of aggressive steps in March suggested Mr. Smith’s probe was advancing. Prosecutors have subpoenaed a range of people in Mr. Trump’s orbit, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, setting the stage for court fights that could take months to resolve. Mr. Trump has asserted executive privilege in an effort to prevent Messrs. Pence and Meadows from testifying.

Civil lawsuits related to Jan. 6 attack on Capitol

Several Democratic lawmakers and Capitol Police officers are seeking to hold Mr. Trump accountable for the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, in a series of civil lawsuits.

A federal judge in Washington rejected Mr. Trump’s immunity claims and allowed the lawsuits to proceed last year, prompting the former president to challenge the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A three-judge panel heard arguments in December over whether Mr. Trump bears responsibility for the mental and physical harm caused by the assault on the Capitol.

Invited to weigh in on Mr. Trump’s immunity from the lawsuits, the Justice Department said he wasn’t immune and can be sued in connection with Jan. 6, 2021, when he told a crowd of supporters to “fight like hell” to keep Congress from certifying his loss to Joe Biden. The appeals-court panel hasn’t yet ruled on the matter.

E. Jean Carroll civil defamation case

E. Jean Carroll, a New York writer and journalist, sued Mr. Trump in a New York state court in late 2019, saying the president lied and defamed her when he denied raping her in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. In late 2020, the Justice Department took over the defense of the case from Mr. Trump’s private attorneys, claiming Mr. Trump was acting within the scope of his employment when he responded as president to Ms. Carroll’s claims.

The Biden administration has maintained that approach. A federal appeals court in Washington is reviewing whether his actions were undertaken in the scope of his job as president.

Ms. Carroll brought a follow-on lawsuit last year, invoking a New York law that opened a yearlong window in which people who say they were sexually assaulted as adults can sue their alleged abusers, no matter how long ago the conduct occurred. It is set to go to trial in April.


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