Tallying Trump’s Troubles
In Rome, Tiberius Gracchus stood before the crowd covered in ashes, presenting that, without their votes, he was as good as dead. Not venturing into the fact that he was literally correct and would soon be beaten to death, his dramatics was because he would be sued into the ground, as was Roman custom – because of his position, he was immune from prosecution but would lose his immunity the moment that he left office. Without his immunity, every political enemy he made on his way up would bring him into court. With an unending bureaucratic onslaught, his political and social life would be over. Tiberius was publicly making a desperate appeal to voters for continued immunity.
Skip a few thousand years or so, and we have several dozen attorneys sharpening their knives for former President Trump, ready to potentially hit him hard enough to be ruinous. Trump has acted in a way that has been building pressure for establishment Republicans to turn on him. Meanwhile, helping to secure a conviction has become a potential career-launcher for every Democrat – he’s turned himself into the Golden Snitch of politics, which leaves him more vulnerable with fewer defenders legally.
Against this backdrop, investigations are turning up at-times shocking details, i.e. allegedly lunging at the throat of a Secret Service agent and inflating assets by hundreds of millions for loans. Trump is notoriously good at escaping consequences despite leaving several people behind that end up in prison, being sued, or both.
To be sure, there are all sorts of lawsuits with Donald Trump or his businesses or organization named as a defendant – some are tied to his official actions as President (which is to be expected for any President), such as Stone v. Trump regarding the Presidential Memorandum on Military Service by Transgender Individuals; some to his notorious actions as a property developer in the desperate, Mad Max knife-fight that is New York City real estate; some to the many alleged scams like Trump University or his nonprofit that allegedly funneled money to the Trump family; and then there are several alleged sexual misconduct lawsuits ranging from the sexual assault of a minor with Jeffrey Epstein to forcibly kissing a staffer at a rally before becoming President (there’s an entire Wikipedia page).
It’s a long list, and the total number of lawsuits that Trump is involved in numbers at just over 4,000 over the past 30 years, and wouldn’t include the times that one of his fixers like Roy Cohn or Michael Cohen took care of before a complaint was filed.
Despite the PR wreckage, mounting legal issues, damage to the Republican brand, arguably directing a mob to attack legislators, and many other credible allegations, Trump has been the Teflon Don. So far, scrambling between loans to pay debtors, sending out fixers to silence porn stars, and generally acting like a mafia boss has worked out for him.
However, the circling sharks are closing in, and the pressure and evidence to go after Trump in the courtroom will increase as the emphasis on all political goals tends to increase around midterms, go into a brief lull, and then cranks up for the 2024 primary season. With the politics and legal issues closely linked, they’re impossible to untangle from the ultimate consequences Trump may see.
To provide a bit of an overview of the most serious civil and criminal liabilities Trump currently has, as well as some brief speculation on how this may unfold, we have a brief overview. This includes one particular civil lawsuit that threatens to implode the Trump family’s finances; the Georgia election fraud investigation; and several additional, top-of-the-headlines investigations that could push authorities to file criminal charges. Each one of these investigations has the potential to provide evidence for the other.
As an aside, no attorney in their right mind would still sign up to defend Donald Trump. Too many of his lawyers end up with investigations or criminal charges of their own, and he seems even less pleasant to defend than Alex Jones.
January 6th Committee
Important life advice: don’t piss off a Cheney (especially while hunting quail).
Rep. Liz Cheney, who may have been killed if the Jan 6th mob got to her, has had the poise and argument of a highly-skilled attorney making her closing statement throughout the entirety of the Committee hearings. These hearings have been incredibly well-covered, with Trump’s defenders having little to say about them outside of the fact that there is nobody defending him on the panel.
This imbalance is because, when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked for members for the Committee, he put forward Rep. Marjory Taylor Greene, an alt-right Trump loyalist, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has also defended Trump at every available opportunity. It bears mentioning that both of these recommendations were later exposed to have (allegedly) asked Trump for a presidential pardon and may still be crossing their fingers that Trump wins and offers one later.
While the Committee cannot impose criminal sanctions, they can use the prestige of Congress and the media momentum of the hearings to uncover facts that can later be used in criminal prosecutions (and perhaps humiliate Sen. Josh Hawley again). This could provide enough evidence for the Department of Justice to prosecute Trump for his involvement on Jan. 6th.
These hearings have been the best example so far of public pressure to offer evidence against the former President building and being capitalized on, with a cascade of new evidence being opened up after Cassidy Hutchinson stepped forward.
New York Fraud Case
It’s not much of a secret – Trump has had some deals that are shady even by NYC real estate standards. Judging from the incredibly long and detailed complaint filed by NY Attorney General Letitia James, while there is no shortage of scumbags in NYC real estate, Trump got greedier than most.
For example, there were major discrepancies in the reporting of values of properties, i.e. a building jumping from $200 million to $524 million in a single year on tax filings; reporting that Trump’s triplex in Trump Tower was three times the size it was previously reported at, and other transparent absurdities to make the Trump family look like they had far more money when it was in their interest. Trump would then allegedly use inflated asset valuations for loans.
Because of the expansive fraud alleged over many years, James is looking to ban Donald Trump and several of his children from ever conducting business in New York again. While there is a vast world out there, this official branding of fraud would hurt the Trumps, and cutting them off from doing business in their home state would probably be devastating as it was where he built his business infrastructure – I’m not a business guy, but having to pack up and leave the state that was your nerve center seems like an issue.
While this case is a civil case, Attorney General Letitia James is handing the evidence off to the IRS in hopes that a criminal prosecution based on the same (allegedly) fraudulent activities could be initiated. This is the same IRS that Trump defunded, but Biden just injected new funding into.
George Election Interference Investigations
The wheels to this machine are still a bit obscure, with Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis only recently discussing that the charges to be brought could end with people serving prison sentences. This is in response to Donald Trump’s aggressive lobbying campaign to get Georgia officials to find enough votes to win the state for him.
The real liability for Trump is who will say what to save their own skin once Donald swooping in with a presidential pardon is no longer on the table should he be disqualified from or lose the 2024 election. So far, despite being publicly stiffed on attorney’s fees, sued for backing Trump’s statements, and then being dragged through the mud… and then broken glass… and then that pipe from Shawshank… Rudy Giuliani has still not flipped.
To Giuliani’s credit, whether he fears Trump turning on him or is holding out on the possibility of a pardon, he is unflinchingly playing his role of a loyalist. Giuliani is currently being investigated for his role in badgering election officials to help Trump win the election, and constitutes the first criminal liability of Giuliani’s relationship with Trump apparently being acted upon.
In one of the most dramatic (and already thoroughly-covered) parts of any investigation ever, a President’s private estate was raided to recover some of the most sensitive intelligence documents in the United States.
In addition to bringing yet more pressure, this is one of those events that is keeping Trump relevant in the headlines and drowning out most other Republican media – nobody can get any oxygen. Although the GOP has mostly complained that the process should be considered more, additional transparency has quieted some of the demands. Subsequent processes like the Special Master have not reflected well on Trump’s likelihood of success in court, and will likely continue to make him more difficult to defend if the voter fraud lawsuits are any indication.
Much like in ancient Rome, there are plenty of causes of action that can slip by under normal circumstances which will turn into an impossible legal gauntlet if you get too much attention and become a priority, i.e. personally pissing off a prosecutor, making it into the headlines, or becoming a part of a government prosecutor’s career-launch. This is because there is no end to crime, financial or otherwise, and policing and prosecution resources are either conserved or run out. In this environment, it is not great when prosecutors are incentivized to go full-tilt against you.
Unfortunately for Donald Trump, apparently the gnawing hole at the center of his being is only even temporarily sated by being the most tweeted-about individual on the planet as a reality star politician functioning as a controversial lightning rod. Also, unfortunately for Trump, because of his rise and his notoriety, many of these prosecutors and civil attorneys are looking to make a name for themselves – accepting a settlement that is anything less than devastating or humiliating for Trump will not advance their careers or wallets.
From Republicans, the establishment has had little more than a low-level insurgency from Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger against Trump while he may still be able to at least discourage his base from turning out. That being said, should Trump’s grip on the party start to slip, the tide could shift quickly as a large portion of moderate, Chamber of Commerce Republicans scramble to say on the record “I always hated that guy” first.
Now, things Trump may have swept under the rug when he was playing under different rules and nobody was going to check are being found. These prosecutors will likely use the full leverage of their office to go after him, and anyone they think they can squeeze to get to him, i.e. the way Letitia James leaned on Donald Trump’s CFO Allen Weisselberg until he pled guilty to tax avoidance. Again, this was a scam he had already been involved in for years, but it wasn’t until the politics pushed the issue that he was actually busted and flipped.
This feeds directly into Trump’s political liabilities, resulting in fewer defenders, resulting in a higher likelihood that pressure to prosecute will be successful – after all, it seems the taboo of one party prosecuting a former President and potential political opponent from the other party is the strongest factor at least delaying charges being filed. Should the leadership of the GOP step aside or encourage prosecution, this would remove probably the largest obstacle to getting around this taboo.
Thumbnail Credits: Joe Maiorana, File/AP Photo
Above is an opinion piece by Attorney Ryan Campbell.