Legal troubles loom over Trump after presidency
Donald Trump may have evaded an impeachment conviction for the second time, but the former president is still facing multiple lawsuits and civil and criminal investigations that call into question his conduct before and during his time in office.
Here are the pending cases against Trump.
The U.S. Capitol Riot
The most recent lawsuit filed against him, as of Feb. 18, stems from his alleged role in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed a federal civil suit alleging that Trump and his former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, along with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two far-right groups, conspired to incite the mob that stormed the Capitol building while lawmakers were counting the Electoral College votes, according to court documents.
The Feb. 16 suit says the defendants tried to disrupt Thompson from discharging his duty to approve the count of votes cast by the Electoral College after the presidential election.
The riot was part of an ongoing effort by Trump and his co-defendants to undermine the election results and prevent President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from being certified by Congress, the lawsuit claims.
Thompson wants to create the record that Trump violated the law, the lawmaker told MSNBC, and also set a standard for future political disputes.
“If you disagree in America on the outcome of an election, you don’t riot. You don’t do anything other than see that individual at the next election,” Thompson said. “If the Trump administration’s philosophy of engagement [like] what happened on Jan. 6 becomes the standard, then [in] every election you disagree with, you just go into the Capitol and tear it up.”
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Trump spokesman Jason Miller pointed out that Trump was acquitted in the Senate in charges of inciting the riot, the Hill reported.
“President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse,” the statement said.
It remains to be seen whether Trump will face criminal charges in connection with the riot. Although he was acquitted at his Senate impeachment trial on Feb. 13, House Democrats spent days tying Trump’s comments at a rally before the Capitol riot and his false election theft claims to the violence on Jan. 6.
In a Jan. 11 interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine decried Giuliani and Trump’s comments made at a “Stop the Steal” rally before the riot. Giuliani called for “trial by combat” at the rally, and Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to save the country.
“They really did encourage these folks and rile them up,” Racine said.
Asked if Trump, Giuliani and others could be prosecuted in connection with the riot, Racine said his office is looking into whether to pursue a charge of inciting violence, which according to D.C. Code falls under the misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct and can lead to up to 90 days in jail. Racine added that he’s not specifically targeting Trump.
Voting rights lawsuit
Thompson’s civil case against Trump cites a Reconstruction-era law passed by Congress in 1871 to combat terrorist organizations, specifically the Ku Klux Klan, a group that murdered and harassed Black Americans in the South.
The law, known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, “was intended to protect against conspiracies, through violence and intimidation, that sought to prevent members of Congress from discharging their official duties,” the lawsuit said. “The defendants conspired to prevent, by force, intimidation and threats, [Thompson], as a Member of Congress, from discharging his official duties to approve the count of votes cast by members of the Electoral College following the presidential election held in November 2020.”
The KKK law was also cited in a complaint against Trump, his campaign and the Republican National Committee after the presidential election. The lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three Detroit residents over Trump’s apparent efforts to sway local officials in Wayne County, Mich., and state legislators to hold off on certifying votes or interfere in the electoral process.
“The Ku Klux Klan Act prohibits persons from conspiring to deny ‘either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws,’” the complaint says, “or ‘to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President.’”
Trump is under criminal investigation in Atlanta for a Jan. 2 call he made during which he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state, according to a leaked recording of the call that was first reported by the Washington Post.
During the call, Trump insisted that he won the state and told Raffensperger he just wants “to find 11,780 votes,” according to the Post’s transcript of the conversation. Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes.
The call was among several heavy-handed attempts from Trump and his allies to cast doubt on the election results in key states won by Biden and attempt to be declared the winner despite failing to secure enough Electoral College votes. Georgia’s top Republican officials, including Raffensperger, quickly fell out of Trump’s good graces when they indicated they would not go along with his attempts to undermine the results.
Now prosecutors are looking into whether the phone call violated state law, according to the New York Times.
In a Feb. 10 letter to Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said that her office has opened an investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.”
The letter adds: “This investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.”
The letter didn’t name Trump but the Democratic prosecutor acknowledged in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that the investigation includes but isn’t limited to Trump’s call with Raffensperger.
Sexual misconduct allegations
Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll sued Trump in New York state for defamation in 2019, after she accused him of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room in the 1990s. Trump responded by calling Carroll a liar in an interview with the Hill.
The last major development in the case came in September, when the Justice Department sought to replace Trump’s lawyers to defend him in the lawsuit, according to federal court documents. The agency argued that Trump was acting as president when he allegedly made the remarks deemed defamatory by Carroll, so he should be allowed to use government lawyers for his defense.
A judge denied the department’s request in October, court records show. The agency then appealed in the Second Circuit, according to a notice filed Nov. 25. It’s unclear how the Department of Justice under Biden will proceed on this pending request.
Carroll is among more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Another woman, Summer Zervos, alleged that Trump groped and tried to kiss her in 2007, the Associated Press reported. She sued Trump for defamation in state court after he denied the allegations, according to AP.
Adding to Trump’s legal woes are two separate investigations by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance over alleged financial improprieties related to Trump’s corporate dealings, Yahoo Finance reported.
James is investigating the Trump Organization’s financial activities, according to the attorney general’s office, and whether Trump inflated the value of his assets in his financial statements to get better terms for loans and insurance coverage. That investigation could lead to civil charges.
Vance’s investigation, which is criminal, is looking into whether Trump committed financial crimes through the Trump Organization, the New York Times reported. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Manhattan prosecutors are examining loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars that Trump took out on various properties in the city.
Vance’s team recently added Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor and prominent defense attorney, the Times reported on Thursday. A spokesman for Vance told CNN that Pomerantz was sworn into office this month.
Trump’s niece Mary, who penned a revealing book about the former president in July, sued Trump and his siblings in September, alleging they scammed her out of money that she said she should have inherited, CNN reported.
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