World

Donald Trump's current legal woes, explained

A pitched legal battle has continued since August when Donald Trump's private estate was searched by federal agents for documents that the government says are extremely sensitive and not Trump's to possess. Here's a look at some of the major legal probes underway related to Trump's in office and his business dealings.

N.Y. attorney general suing Trump for corporate fraud, to share info with IRS, federal officials

Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Sept. 17. (REUTERS)

The Republican Party and supporters of Donald Trump have rallied around him in wake of the raid by FBI agents on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., despite the multiple legal challenges the former U.S. president is facing, which on Wednesday included the prospect of his Trump Organization having its operations halted in New York.

The Just Security blog has produced an exhaustive list of the legal issues confronting Trump with respect to his time in office and his businesses. We take a look at some of the major ones.

Missing documents

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in February notified Congress that it had recovered about 15 boxes of White House documents from Trump's Florida Mar-a-Lago estate, some of which contained classified materials.

After months of reported negotiations with Trump's legal team, a search warrant was carried out by federal authorities on Aug. 8, a step excoriated by supporters of the ex-president.

WATCH l Trump earns partial victory on special master ruling:

Judge grants Trump's request for expert to review seized documents

23 days ago
Duration 2:29
A federal judge granted a request from former U.S. president Donald Trump for a special master to review documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home.

In subsequent legal filings, the Justice Department has revealed a timeline leading up to the search. The investigation began following a referral from the National Archives and Records Administration, which had been trying since 2021 to retrieve documents from Mar-a-Lago. Some 15 boxes were received from the estate in January 2022 that were found to contain 184 documents with classified markings, including top secret information.

During a June 3 visit to Mar-a-Lago by FBI and Justice Department officials, the government says, they received an envelope allegedly contained 38 unique documents with classification markings, including several 17 marked top secret.

Trump representatives said at that time a "diligent search" had accounted for all of the material, according to the Justice Department. But the department subpoenaed video footage for the property after that and "developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed," which led to an Aug. 8 search — and raised the prospect of possible obstruction charges. Filings have not identified who may have relocated the records, or why they did so.

WATCH l Justice Department wants to know why documents were found after attestation:

Documents at Trump’s home likely hidden from investigators, DOJ says

28 days ago
Duration 2:11
The U.S. Justice Department says classified documents were 'likely concealed and removed' from investigators searching former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. The details are part of a new court filing.

A so-called "special master," has been tasked with reviewing all of the materials, including classified ones, so that he can separate anything that could be subject to attorney-client privilege or executive privilege — a legal doctrine that shields some White House communications from disclosure.

Trump has claimed on social media posts without evidence that he declassified the records. However, his lawyers have not made such claims in any of their legal filings or at a Sept. 20 hearing with the special master, retired judge Raymond Dearie.

Dearie, appointed by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, said at that hearing he planned to meet Cannon's deadline of Nov. 30 for the review.

The Capitol riot

A congressional panel probing the Jan. 6, 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol is working to build a case that he broke the law in trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat. The next hearing is planned for Sept. 28 at 1 pm. ET.

Vice-chair Liz Cheney has said the committee could make multiple referrals to the Justice Department seeking criminal charges against Trump, who accuses the panel of conducting a sham investigation.

WATCH l Dereliction of duty not a criminal charge, but other charges could stick:

Expert weighs political and legal aspects to Jan. 6 committee hearings

2 months ago
Duration 4:43
U.S. law professor Lawrence Douglas says that the stakes to bring a criminal case against former president Donald Trump are very high, even if there is strong evidence.

In a March 2 court filing, the committee detailed Trump's efforts to persuade his vice-president, Mike Pence, to either reject slates of electors for Democrat Joe Biden, who won the election, or delay a congressional count of those votes.

Trump's efforts likely violated a federal law making it illegal to "corruptly" obstruct any official proceeding, or attempt to do so, David Carter, a California federal judge, said earlier this year.

In the March 2 filing, the committee said it was likely that Trump and others conspired to defraud the United States. That law criminalizes any effort by two or more people to interfere with governmental functions "by deceit, craft or trickery."

In addition to Trump's efforts to pressure Pence, the committee cited his attempts to convince state election officials, the public and members of Congress that the 2020 election was stolen, even though several allies told him there was no evidence of fraud.

Democrats said in a June hearing of the Jan. 6 committee that Trump, a Republican, raised some $250 million US from supporters to advance fraudulent claims in court that he won the election, but steered much of the money elsewhere.

This raises the possibility that he could be charged with wire fraud, which prohibits obtaining money on "false or fraudulent pretences," legal experts said.

Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, earned praise from the U.S. House Select Committee for her testimony on June 28. The committee plans another session on Sept. 28. (Mandel Ngan/Reuters)

The committee cannot charge Trump with federal crimes. That decision must be made by the Justice Department, led by Garland. It is known that a search warrant was obtained in connection with John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who the committee has heard was instrumental in seeking out Trump-friendly electors to replace those of Biden.

Lawrence Douglas, professor of law at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., told CBC News recently that the committee has brought out "pretty powerful evidence" of "a conspiracy to defraud the United States and ... the corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding."

Legal experts who spoke to Reuters as well as Douglas — who predicted in a book that Trump would not quietly cede a 2020 election loss — said the stakes are enormously high.

There is no legal protection for former presidents or presidential candidates from prosecution, but a prosecution would have significant political implications and potentially arouse the type of anger seen on display on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump, as he has done after being acquitted in the Senate following two impeachments, could claim vindication if a prosecution is not successful.

New York probes

New York officials for about two years have been investigating whether Trump's family real estate company misrepresented the values of its properties to get favourable bank loans and lower tax bills.

Trump's longtime chief financial officer pleaded guilty on Aug. 18 to tax fraud and other charges in his capacity with the Trump Organization and may be called to testify in a criminal trial beginning in October that is being prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference on Sept. 21, when she announced a civil suit against Donald Trump and his company, alleging business fraud involving some of its most prized assets, including properties across the U.S. (Brittainy Newman/The Associated Press)

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Sept. 21 announced her office was suing Trump and his adult children for fraud while seeking what amounted to a corporate death penalty being sought against the Trump Organization.

The lawsuit accused the organization of engaging in "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" in preparing Trump's annual statements of financial condition from 2011 to 2021. It also named the Trump Organization, the former president's son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump as defendants.

James said her office would be making referrals regarding some of the alleged criminal wrongdoing it had uncovered to the Internal Revenue Service as well as federal prosecutors at the Southern District of New York.

James is seeking to remove the Trumps from businesses engaged in the alleged fraud and wants an independent monitor appointed for no less than five years to oversee the Trump Organization's compliance, financial reporting, valuations and disclosures to lenders, insurers and tax authorities.

WATCH | Trump not the victim of a conspiracy, Republican strategist says:

Trump still has 'iron grip' over many Republican voters, strategist says

2 months ago
Duration 9:14
Despite revelations about Donald Trump by the Jan. 6 committee, he still has tremendous influence on Republican voters and that puts the U.S. at 'enormous risk,' says Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

Trump, citing the advice of his counsel, said he refused to answer questions during his Aug. 10 appearance before the New York state attorney general, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

James confirmed reporting that Trump's legal team negotiated with her office on a possible settlement, but that Trump's offer was rejected.

Georgia pressure campaign

A special grand jury was seated in May to consider evidence in a Georgia prosecutor's inquiry into Trump's alleged efforts to influence the state's 2020 election results.

The investigation focuses in part on a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, on Jan. 2, 2021.

Trump asked Raffensperger to "find" the votes needed to overturn Trump's election loss, according to an audio recording publicly released.

Legal experts said Trump may have violated at least three Georgia criminal election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

With files from CBC News and the Associated Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now