Donald Trump thinks that he’s going to rise like a Phoenix, but he’s more likely going to sink like a lead balloon under the weight of his legal troubles. Those legal troubles fall into two categories:
- Potential criminal cases
- Potential and actual civil cases
That doesn’t even include the many cases that his administration is still a party to, some of which will expire with the new administration.
Potential Criminal Cases
There are at least four potential criminal cases with Trump as the defendant. These are:
- Tax Fraud in New York. This has both federal and New York state implications, although at the moment the primary activity is in New York. Cyrus Vance Jr., the District Attorney of New York County, is attempting to subpoena the tax records of President Trump as part of the ongoing investigation into the Stormy Daniels scandal. The Supreme Court has already found that Trump is not immune from the subpoena (see Trump v. Vance) but sent the case back down for the lower courts to work out the details.
- Federal Tax Fraud. Trump’s tax records over many years have been under audit, which is (of course) the reason that Trump has famously refused to release his tax returns. The New York Times, in an extensive investigation, found that Trump paid no net federal income taxes in eleven of the fifteen years preceding his presidency. In 2016 and 2017, Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes despite earning millions.
- Incitement to Riot. Trump’s part in soliciting and encouraging the January 6th insurrection may potentially make him liable for a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2101, the federal “incitement to riot” statute. That will initially mostly be a decision for Michael Sherwin, the interim United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In the meantime, the United States Congress is likely to create a “January 6, 2021 Commission” (modeled after the 9/11 Commission), with the authority to do extensive investigative work on what led up to the storming of the Capitol (and the President’s role in it).
- Election interference in Georgia. Based on his January 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (as well as a December 23, 2020 phone call from Trump to the chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state’s office ) it’s quite likely that Trump violated federal and state laws against soliciting election fraud or interference in elections. The Attorney General for Georgia has now opened a formal investigation.
Potential and Actual Civil Cases
Unlike the criminal cases, most of which are speculative at this point, there are a number of civil cases that have already been filed, where Trump is the defendant. These include:
- Sexual Assault. A lawsuit by a former campaign staffer Alva Johnson who alleges that Trump forcibly kissed her at a rally in Florida in August 2016. (The lawsuit also involves allegations of unequal pay for her as an African-American woman).
- Defamation. A defamation lawsuit raised by Summer Zervos which arose from Trump’s statement that she lied about sexual assault allegations against him.
- Defamation. Another defamation lawsuit raised by E. Jean Carroll which arose from Trump’s denials of her accusation that he sexually assaulted her more than 20 years ago.
- Civil Conspiracy and Fraud. The lawsuit by Mary L. Trump against the former President, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and the estate of his brother Robert Trump claiming fraud and civil conspiracy for them cheating her out of her late father’s inheritance.
- Campaign Violations. A lawsuit alleging a pattern of persistent illegal conduct involving extensive political coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and the former President’s personal and business interests.
- Assault. A lawsuit where the plaintiff’s allege that Trump’s security team assaulted them during a 2015 peaceful protest on behalf of the Black Lives Matter and Mexican immigrants.
- Civil Rights Violations. A similar lawsuit where the plaintiff’s allege that Trump encouraged an atmosphere of violence and anti-Trump protesters were subjected to attacks and racial slurs being led out of a campaign rally in 2016.
- Ku Klux Klan Act Violations. Most recently, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, including as defendants Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Trump himself, alleging violations of the 1871 Civil Rights Act (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act). The suit seeks an injunction as well as compensatory and punitive relief in an unspecified amount.
And really, that’s just the top of the iceberg. There are many more lawsuits that involve the Trump administration, the Trump organization, the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, that have simply not been filed. Wikipedia has a list of lawsuits involving Donald Trump that is already mighty impressive.
As if that weren’t enough, the Congress is well on its way to establishing a “9/11” type commission to investigate the January 6th uprising. That could lead to much more evidence of Trump’s involvement with and liability for the insurrection.
Trump is (of course) familiar with legal claims, as he and his organizations have been — by the latest count — involved in over 3500 of them in the years since he began to be in business. That means that Trump has averaged about 70 cases a year as either plaintiff, defendant, or a 3rd party in an enforcement action in his approximately 50 year long career, which must be some kind of Guiness World’s record.
Ah, but the best is yet to come.
And, in fact, later today (after this post was initially published) the Supreme Court ruled — with respect to the New York tax fraud allegations — that Cy Vance Jr. would be entitled to see Trump’s tax returns.