One could be forgiven for having lost track of all the investigations into former President Trump because, well, because there are so many investigations to keep track of.
In fact, if you look at the Wikipedia page for the Legal Affairs of Donald Trump you will see that — as of this writing — it is 53 pages long. And that’s not including the approximately dozen sub articles that explore different aspects of the Donald’s legal affairs in more detail.
The big news yesterday was, of course, that after a three year investigation, Letitia James, the Attorney General for New York State, has brought a civil lawsuit against Trump, his organization, and his three eldest children (Eric, Ivanka and Don Jr.). The complaint is over 200 pages long, and set forth a long and detailed list where Trump’s operation “repeatedly and consistently manipulated the value of assets” in order to win favorable loan terms from banks and to reduce tax payments. She is seeking roughly $250 million in penalties, and is also seeking to ban Trump, his children and members of their executive team permanently from operating businesses in New York state (including barring the organization from buying commercial real estate in New York for five years).
AG James is also alleging that Trump’s operation violated both state and federal criminal laws. Consequently, she is sending criminal referrals both to the federal Department of Justice and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
But basically, if you look at Trump’s legal problems, there are essentially four threads to follow:
- Financial and tax fraud engaged by the Donald and the Trump organization.
- Trump’s attempt to “find” fraudulent votes in Georgia.
- Trump’s role in the January 6th insurrection.
- Trump’s absconding with (and potentially bartering in) top secret documents.
Financial and Tax Fraud Investigations
These investigations precede Trump’s time as President, and involve literally decades of questionable financial dealing and tax returns. Some of this actually began with Mary Trump, the Donald’s niece, whom the Donald tried to cheat out of her rightful inheritance back in 2001. But more particularly, for years Trump inflated the value of his various properties to obtain loans and other financial advantages while simultaneous evaluating them for far, far less on his tax returns. These allegations have resulted in essentially two paths:
- A civil allegation led by Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York State.
- A criminal investigation led by Alvin Bragg, the District Attorney of New York County (Manhattan).
The civil investigation, which is looking back over at least 15 years of business practices, has been going on for three years. Trump was required to testify in a deposition recently, where he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights more than 400 times. Yesterday it finally blossomed into an actual complaint.
The Manhattan criminal investigation has had a more complicated history, mostly because the term of the original District Attorney (Cyrus Vance) ended, and the new District Attorney (Alvin Bragg) seems to be less interested in pursuing the case.
But it’s still ongoing.
The Georgia Vote-Finding Investigation
This one has been percolating along since Trump’s first impeachment, and is (of course) the result of his “perfect” phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, where had asked him to “find” 11,780 votes.
This case is being prosecuted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has convened a grand jury, and who is seeking the testimony of the likes of South Carolina Lindsay Graham and Rudy “America’s Mayor” Giuliani.
Nothing is going to happen before the midterms, however.
The January 6th Insurrection
There are essentially two investigations into the January 6th insurrection: (1) the investigation by the January 6th Committee and (2) the investigation by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice.
The January 6th Committee’s investigation has been quite public, and they’re working hard to get it wrapped up before the sitting of the next Congress in 2023 (especially since there is a good chance that the House could flip in 2022).
The Committee was originally trying to get its final report published by September — you can pre-order it on Amazon (which I have) — but the “delivery” date keeps getting pushed back. I ordered my copy on March 24 and it was supposed to be delivered in early September, and now the estimated delivery date is November 29, 2022 (or after the midterms).
But it’s coming.
The DOJ investigation, on the other hand, is shrouded in mystery. The Department has been busy, however, and we know at least that they have interviewed Trump’s former personal attorney Pat Cipollone and others; seized the phones or electronic devices of Trump’s allies like John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, and Mike “My Pillow” Lindell; and sent out some 40 subpoenas, including to former White House aides like Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino.
Again, there won’t be anything before the midterms, however.
The Classified Documents Investigation
This one, is of course, an entirely unforced error on Trump’s part. Why did he take all these documents when — as some commentators have humorously noted — Trump is famous for not reading documents? It does make one suspect that Trump was looking to trade these to Trump allies like Saudi Arabia.
The Department of Justice has indicated in court filings that it is looking not only at potential criminal charges related to mishandling classified documents, but also at potential attempts at obstruction of justice. The Department asked over and over again for Trump’s people to turn over the documents, and his attorneys had certified that he had done so.
It’s not like Trump wasn’t warned that this could bring him into substantial legal jeopardy.
Tax fraud charges eventually brought down Al Capone. It’s often this type of “ministerial offenses” — ones where the law is very technical, very detailed, but also very clear — that bring down a big fish like Trump.