Trump faces 4 investigations. Here’s where they stand

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Former President Donald Trump has predicted he will be arrested this week, on charges related to a hush money payment aimed at covering up an alleged affair. A Manhattan grand jury is expected to issue an indictment soon, according to multiple reports.

But that is just one in a small constellation of investigations circling him. Here’s a look at the government probes into Trump.

The four investigations

There are four known government-run investigations into Trump or his business. Let’s first look at them in terms of location and prosecutorial scale, from national to local.

  • On the national level. The Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to look into two broad areas: the classified documents found at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago and efforts to interfere with the 2020 election.
  • In New York state. The New York attorney general is behind a civil lawsuit alleging the Trump Organization lied to lenders and insurers about its assets.
  • In Georgia. The district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is considering charges surrounding efforts by the former president and his allies to overturn the 2020 election there.
  • In New York City. The Manhattan district attorney has been working with a grand jury on whether Trump hid payments that were hush money to silence Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, about an alleged affair with Trump.

Trump has repeatedly and vociferously denied wrongdoing in all of these cases. He has alleged prosecutors have open political bias against him, and that he is being targeted by left-leaning officials.

Now, a little about each one, in order of when we expect to hear about charging decisions or next steps.

The Manhattan hush-money case

Watch the segment in the player above.

What is this case about? Hush money and potential accounting and campaign finance violations. This surrounds a 2016 payment of $130,000 to Clifford. The grand jury is scrutinizing the money that was paid to gain her silence about an affair she said she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Trump’s response to the case has varied. Trump has acknowledged he was aware of the payment, but he and his spokespeople contend he did not understand its full nature.

Who is the prosecutor? The Manhattan district attorney is Alvin Bragg. He was elected to that job last November.

What are possible charges?

  • Accounting fraud. According to The New York Times, the charges may include falsifying records, a violation of the New York Penal Law. The idea is that the payments to Clifford were falsely written as something else in the books of the Trump Organization, and Trump knew, “with intent to defraud.” That offense is often a misdemeanor. However, it can be elevated to a felony if the fraud is covering up other, serious criminal activity.
  • Campaign finance charges. There could also be charges that the payment was a hidden campaign activity, because it was intended to help Trump as a then-candidate for president.

Isn’t there a statute of limitations involved here? Yes. The accounting fraud charge has a two-year statute of limitation as a misdemeanor and five years as a felony. BUT, New York law extends that timing if a defendant has lived for a significant time out of the state. As president, Trump lived and worked in the White House and his Florida home. If these charges appear, expect this to be a point of contention.

When might we hear? News of a possible indictment is expected any day now. The grand jury in the case will next meet Wednesday.

The Georgia election case

What is this case about? Whether Trump interfered with, including if he tried to overturn, the 2020 election results in Georgia. This case includes the January 2021 call from Trump to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump repeatedly said he needed 11,000 more votes.

Why Fulton County? The county contains Atlanta, the state capital. It also is the most populous county in Georgia. In addition, it has a prosecutor who wanted to launch the case.

Who is the prosecutor? Fulton County’s district attorney is Fani Willis. She took office in January 2021. Willis called a “special purpose grand jury” to review evidence and make recommendations in this case.

What are possible charges? There is a wide range of potential charges here, and some may not be clear yet. A member of the grand jury convened for this case told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the group recommended multiple indictments.

They could include:

  • Election violations. These include, per the Washington Post, soliciting others to commit election fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit election fraud and interference with an election.
  • Racketeering. This charge — essentially that an organized criminal enterprise is operating to break the law — would be among the most serious in terms of potential prison time. It is among those Willis laid out in her initial announcement of this probe.
  • Threatening public officials. In her initial announcement, Willis also indicated she was looking into any threats to public officials from Trump or as a result of his actions.
  • No perjury charge for Trump. While most of the grand jury’s final report remains secret, a portion was made public. In it, the grand jury stated a belief that one or more witnesses lied to them, committing perjury. However, Trump himself did not testify before this jury.Any perjury charges would be leveled at someone else.

When might we hear? Soon. Willis said in January that decisions are “imminent.” On Monday, Trump’s attorneys filed a motion to keep the final grand jury report secret and remove the district attorney’s office from the case. Some see that as indication that he too expects news from the DA soon.

The New York State business fraud case

What is this case about? Whether Trump and others involved in the Trump Organization committed fraud by inflating values of some assets, including properties, to get loans and other business benefits.

This is not a criminal case. Instead, this is a civil lawsuit filed by the state attorney general. She does not have the ability to file criminal charges, though she has referred the case to the Manhattan district attorney for that possibility.

Who is the attorney general involved? New York’s attorney general is Letitia James. She was first elected in 2018.

What are the possible consequences? Again, the New York attorney general’s lawsuit is not a criminal case and thus there are no charges involved. But there are serious stakes for Trump and some family members.

  • Real estate ban. James wants the Trumps to be banned from buying real estate in New York for five years. That could be significant for the company, which was founded in and rose through the world of New York real estate.
  • Trump New York business ban. In addition, she would like a judge to rule that Trump and other family members should not lead any business — as an officer or director — in New York.

When could we hear? This case is set to go to trial in October.

The DOJ special counsel

A view of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters

What is this case about? This is a set of two investigations connected to Trump, overseen by a single, independent prosecutor at the Department of Justice. The order establishing the special counsel lays out two areas:

  • Interference with the 2020 election results and presidential transfer of power in 2021. That includes the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Possession of classified documents at Trump’s residence in Florida.

Who is the prosecutor? The special counsel is Jack Smith, who formerly served as the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Previous to that, he oversaw the public integrity unit at the DOJ.

What are the possible charges? The spectrum of charges is large and much is unknown about how the special counsel is proceeding. But we have some outside guidance.

First, the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol recommended four charges against Trump to the DOJ in its final report.

  • Obstruction of an official proceeding. For the delay in certification on Jan. 6 caused by the violence at the Capitol building.
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States. The committee asserts Trump was at the center of an organized effort to defraud the public, with repeated lies about the 2020 election.
  • Conspiracy to make a false statement. The concept here is that Trump sanctioned a slate of false electors and that others attempted to submit those false slates on his behalf.
  • Inciting, assisting or aiding an insurrection. The Jan. 6 committee asserts that Trump is guilty of aiding an insurrection by allowing the attack to continue without sending out a statement telling his supporters to stop. The committee left open the possibility of charging Trump with also inciting the riot, but indicated they saw the stronger charge as him “aiding” the event by refusing to step in and stop it.
  • Witness tampering. While this was not a formal criminal referral in the committee report, the lawmakers on the Jan. 6 committee previously raised concerns that Trump may have tried to tamper with its witnesses.

Multiple outlets report that the special counsel also is looking into the Save America PAC, through which Trump raised millions of dollars after the election with his false 2020 claims. Specific possible charges, based on previous cases about fraudulent PACs, include:

  • Wire fraud. The idea would be that Trump and the Save America team mislead their donors with overt lies.
  • Money laundering. A charge that the purpose of the PAC was not to promote a cause, but actually to move money for someone’s profit. (In this case, Trump’s.)

Regarding the classified documents, some possible charges are indicated in the FBI’s search warrant of Mar-a-Lago:

  • Mishandling of and unauthorized retention of national security documents. Those are two separate but related possible charges.
  • Obstruction. In this case, a possible charge that Trump knew he had records that the government was trying to find, and he willfully kept them from obtaining them.

Note: A separate special counsel is overseeing an investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents by President Joe Biden.

When could we hear? It is unclear. Special Counsel Smith, appointed in November, is overseeing a massive probe here. His appointment does not have an end date.

But the directive establishing his investigation also notes that Trump is a current candidate for president, leading to speculation that Smith may want to complete what he can before that election cycle moves too far, including before 2024 arrives.

CNN reported in December that he was moving “fast.”

So where are we?

Let’s recap:

  • Four government investigations involving former President Trump are pending.
  • Three of those cases could lead to criminal charges against the former president. Any single charge would be a first in American history.
  • Those potential charges range from more minor — potentially including document mishandling — to major, including aiding an insurrection, obstruction and a variety of serious fraud charges.
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