Former US President Donald Trump raises his fist while walking to a vehicle outside of Trump Tower in New York City on August 10, 2022.
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images
As Donald Trump considers whether to make a third run for the White House — and when to announce that decision — the former president faces a raft of official investigations and civil lawsuits.
Several of those probes put Trump at risk of criminal sanctions. Others threaten his pocketbook.
What also remains to be seen is whether they will hurt or help Trump, in what many supporters expect and hope will be his candidacy in 2024.
The Republican Trump has repeatedly called the legal probes “witch hunts” by Democratic officials and allies that are designed to hobble him politically. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Here are the top legal challenges for Trump at the moment.
The records probe on Monday vaulted to being potentially the biggest legal threat to Trump, after his stunning revelation that a team of FBI agents was raiding his residence at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The raid was connected to a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., which is investigating Trump over the removal of records from the White House when he left office in January 2021.
The National Archives and Records Administration in January 2022 retrieved 15 boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago. That government agency said the documents should have been sent to NARA at the end of Trump’s administration.
A month later, the National Archives revealed it had found documents marked as being “classified national security information” in the boxes. The Justice Department in May issued a subpoena for those documents to the National Archives.
On Monday, FBI agents carrying a search warrant went to Mar-a-Lago and seized about a dozen boxes from the residence, according to an attorney for Trump, who was staying in the New York area at the time. That lawyer, Christina Bobb, said agents were investigating possible violations of laws related to the Presidential Records Act and the handling of classified material.
The Justice Department on Thursday filed a motion to unseal the search warrant that the FBI used to raid Trump’s home.
To obtain such a warrant, the FBI has to show a judge that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the evidence they are searching for relates to that potential crime.
“Monday’s unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary raid of President Trump’s home was only the latest and most egregious action of hostility by the Biden Administration, whose Justice Department has been weaponized to harass President Trump, his supporters, and staff,” Trump’s spokesperson told NBC News on Thursday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis‘ office is presenting evidence and testimony to a special grand jury in Atlanta impaneled to investigate Trump and a number of his allies in connection with their attempts to get officials in Georgia to undo President Joe Biden’s election win there.
Before Monday’s Mar-a-Lago raid by the FBI, some legal observers considered the Fulton County probe to be the most pressing threat of criminal prosecution to Trump. It still may be.
Willis, a Democrat, in particular is eyeing a Jan. 2, 2021, call Trump placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that conversation, the then-president asked Raffensperger to “find” Trump more than 11,700 votes to reverse his margin of defeat by Biden.
The DA also is investigating contacts Trump allies had with the state’s attorney general, and the top federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Georgia.
Willis last month had the grand jury issue subpoenas to lawyers on the Trump campaign legal team, among them former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as well as to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a dozen so-called fake electors for Trump in Georgia.
Those electors were assembled with the goal of setting up a legal dispute in which Trump’s slate would challenge the legitimacy of the Electoral College delegates awarded Biden for his popular vote win in Georgia.
Another grand jury in Washington is collecting evidence and testimony related to Trump’s actions leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, who swarmed through the halls of Congress, disrupting the confirmation of Biden’s election.
Trump, who for weeks before the riot falsely claimed that widespread ballot fraud was responsible for his loss in the election, is not personally under criminal investigation in this case, NBC News reported last week, citing a federal official.
But the grand jury has subpoenaed Trump’s former White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify in the probe, along with two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.
The House panel, which has interviewed more than 1,000 people in connection with its probe into the riot, has begun holding a series of public hearings that have laid out Trump’s actions leading up to and during the attack on the Capitol.
Witnesses have testified that Trump, after holding a rally for supporters outside the White House early that day, wanted to join the crowd outside the Capitol as they protested Biden’s election.
After being rebuffed in that attempt, Trump then spent hours watching the attack on Congress unfold on television without taking steps to call off the mob, witnesses said.
“Donald Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 … is a stain on our history,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. said during the panel’s July 22 hearing.
The committee cannot bring criminal or civil charges against Trump but is expected to present its findings in a damning final report.
Trump and his allies, including a team of lawyers led by Giuliani, engaged in a wide-ranging effort to reverse Trump’s losses to Biden in seven swing states.
The Justice Department is eyeing those efforts, which included a campaign to pressure Pence to refuse to certify Biden’s win at a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. Pence did not go along with that plan, and certified Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, guaranteeing that he would become president.
Federal agents have seized phones from three men who had discussions with Trump at the time they were involved in the effort to undo Biden’s victory.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., had his phone taken this week. The lawyer John Eastman, who was one of the leading architects of a plan to submit slates of fake electors for Trump, previously had his phone seized, as did former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.
Trump had sought to make Clark the attorney general of the United States, where he would have been in a position to get the Justice Department to back Trump in the election reversal effort.
Eric Holder, who served as attorney general in the Obama administration, during a radio interview last week said Trump “probably” will be indicted on criminal charges with officials from his White House in connection with that effort.
“But I think before that, I expect something coming of that prosecutor in Atlanta,” Holder said, referring to the Georgia state election interference probe being conducted by DA Willis.
Trump on Wednesday appeared for an hours-long deposition at the offices of New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who is eyeing allegations that Trump’s company improperly manipulated the stated valuations of real estate assets to obtain millions of dollars worth of financial benefits.
Trump refused to answer questions under oath by James’ lawyer, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 440 times.
Trump’s son Eric Trump, who runs the Trump Organization with his older brother Donald Trump Jr., in 2020 cited the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when he refused to answer questions at his own deposition in the probe.
The Democrat James has indicated her probe is focused on claims that Trump properties were tweaked in order to obtain better terms on loans and insurance and to obtain tax breaks. Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified to that practice during an appearance before Congress.
The attorney general at the end of that investigation could seek to impose civil sanctions, including monetary penalties, on the Trump Organization.
The Trump Organization and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg are awaiting trial on criminal charges in a 15-count indictment related to an alleged scheme to avoid taxes on compensation to the CFO and other executives since 2005. The defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg also was known to be investigating Trump and his company for possible crimes related to the asset valuation manipulation being eyed in AG James’ civil case.
Earlier this year, two top prosecutors in Bragg’s office handling that probe quit after Bragg declined to file criminal charges against Trump.
“I believe that Donald Trump, in fact, was guilty and, second, that there was sufficient evidence as a matter of law to have sustained a guilty verdict if we went forward,” Mark Pomerantz, the former special prosecutor in Bragg’s office, said last month in a podcast interview.
If Trump “had been Joe Blow from Kokomo, we would have indicted,” Pomerantz said.
Bragg’s office has said the investigation is ongoing.
But there is a widespread belief that the Democratic DA will not seek to indict Trump in the absence of a cooperating witness who could give evidence against him.