Trump’s already dire legal problems will only get worse

The mounting legal threats against Donald Trump may have seemed ominous ahead of the 2022 congressional election. You are nothing compared to what comes next.

Some of the political protections the former president enjoyed are virtually gone. And the Republican firewall he expected from the House and Senate appears to have a few holes after an unexpectedly strong showing by Democrats in the midterm elections.

With the midterm election in retrospect, federal prosecutors no longer adhere to an unwritten code to avoid politically sensitive investigative steps before voters go to the polls. An Atlanta-area prosecutor investigating Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election had also halted most of her potentially explosive moves while Georgia voters cast ballots. And Republicans’ inability to generate massive winning margins threatens to deprive Trump of the overwhelming Republican Congress he had hoped would wield committee hammers and subpoena powers to protect him and torment rivals.

All of this could get even more complicated if, as expected, Trump announces his third candidacy for the presidency next week. As that declaration nears, Trump finds himself in a new, more precarious reality — one in which federal and local investigators draw close to his best allies in at least three criminal investigations. New York’s newly re-elected Attorney General is working to dismantle his business empire, and the Jan. 6 House Special Committee is about to unload a vast trove of evidence that could advance the criminal case against him.

Here are the top six takeaways:

prosecutors unleashed

The grand jury investigation into Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election ran in the dark in September – but not before a notable rebound. FBI investigators uncorked dozens of subpoenas and confiscated the cellphones of many of Trump’s top allies in a bid to secure evidence ahead of the Justice Department’s traditional 60-day pre-election day lull.

With the vote largely complete, prosecutors are free to take other open steps to further their investigation.

Prosecutors are also methodical in a grand jury investigation into Trump’s decision to keep sensitive national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he leaves office and possible efforts to prevent the government from reclaiming them driven. In recent weeks, they secured testimony from Kash Patel, a former Trump White House aide who originally asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in a closed-door grand jury appearance. The Justice Department recently coerced their testimony by granting them limited immunity, though it’s unclear what of value, if anything, Patel told them.

A similar dynamic is at play in Fulton County, Georgia, where District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating Trump’s efforts to undermine the election. Her prosecutors were keen to reach several high-profile witnesses whom they were unable to interview in the weeks leading up to the election. Among her first post-election interviews: newly re-elected governor Brian Kemp.

The judge overseeing Willis’ special grand jury turned down her efforts to interview Kemp in August amid his re-election campaign, but ordered Kemp to testify as soon as possible after the midterms.

In New York, Attorney General Tish James managed to win re-election despite a concerted effort by Trump to promote her Republican rival. Now James is clear to pursue her extensive lawsuit against Trump’s business empire. A New York judge placed Trump’s companies under court oversight last week, and Trump’s initial efforts to overturn that order on appeal stalled Thursday.

Trump’s presidential calculus

Ahead of the midterms, Trump seemed poised to brag into the 2024 midterms, claiming credit for a Republican victory and declaring himself a far from prohibitive frontrunner for the presidency. He had even gone so far as to pick a date for his announcement, teasing a Nov. 15 event at a recent rally in Ohio.

A presidential bid could complicate the calculus for prosecutors — especially those working in a Democratic administration — when prosecuting cases against Trump and his allies. The interim results of the GOP, which were worse than expected, do not change that. But Trump undoubtedly enters the 2024 contest weakened and bruised by rising Republican figures like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. His criminal affliction could be a useful bludgeon for opponents and could set new alarms in a GOP establishment.

Trump’s candidacy shouldn’t deter investigators either. For months he has been flirting with a new presidential candidate and has been brandishing an oversized political megaphone for even longer. He’s using this megaphone to attack the Justice Department for investigating the likely political opponent of the incumbent President. Experts see little reason to think the DOJ will change tactics just because he’s a candidate.

“The long-standing assumption of the Justice Department and state agencies in New York and Georgia must have been that he was likely to run, so I don’t think it will come as a surprise,” said former David Laufman chief of the National Security Division’s counterintelligence division Ministry of Justice.

Jan 6 Committee evidence dump

Trump’s headwind doesn’t just come from the courts. The Jan. 6 selection committee has spent the last year stitching together a scathing portrait of Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election, which helped fuel the Democrats’ mid-term message about attacking American democracy. But the panel finale is weeks away.

The committee is sitting on over 1,000 transcripts of interviews with witnesses, including dozens of members of Trump’s inner circle, his attorneys and even two of his adult children. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has indicated the panel is tending to release all of them before completing its work at the end of December, possibly along with its extensive final report.

These transcripts could provide new leads to Justice Department investigators, who have already used elements of the committee’s investigation as a road map of sorts. Prosecutors had requested the panel’s full minutes in April and June, but the committee refused those requests, preferring to hold its information. Those concerns are fading as the committee takes its final investigative steps and prepares to release its report.

The panel is also working with attorneys for Trump himself, after issuing a subpoena for his documents and testimony last month. Trump has always been considered unlikely to submit to the panel’s questioning – and any legal challenge he raises would last well beyond the panel’s lifetime.

ongoing cases

While the hundreds of criminal cases of Jan. 6 have yet to produce much new, concrete evidence against Trump, they are likely to produce more unwelcome news for him in the coming days. The first of several expected inflammatory conspiracy trials is now ending and could result in a jury verdict before Thanksgiving for five members of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia, including founder Stewart Rhodes.

Trump used the days leading up to the midterms to call for the release of suspected Jan. 6 rioters arrested before their criminal trials, fueling part of his base. But voters largely rejected the high-profile candidates who backed Trump’s Jan. 6 characterization. And other high-profile criminal cases — like the inflammatory Proud Boys conspiracy case, which was due to go before a DC jury in December — will serve as fresh reminders of Trump’s connection to the Jan. 6 chaos and violence affecting some defendants and their attorneys attributed to his rhetoric and actions.

Weak congressional firewall

Republicans could still take over the House of Representatives — and with it the committees that could help Trump defend himself against the looming investigation. But the narrower partisan advantage would give Democrats more power to influence those investigations and thwart Republican efforts to encircle the wagons.

Republicans used their final days before the midterms to hint at efforts to brief the FBI and Justice Department on their work on Trump-related investigations. They have prepared to staff investigative committees with some of Trump’s most ardent defenders — including the House Judiciary Committee, which Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) could chair.

But the narrower the GOP majority, the less leeway the party will have to conduct roving investigations in Trump’s defense. With such a GOP majority, Democrats will hold more minority committee seats than they would have after a Republican wave. And GOP leaders may be more reluctant to send the party on a mission to protect Trump if they believe he was a liability, not a help, to the party in 2022.

Courts suppress Trump’s post-presidential power

Not only does Trump face criminal and civil investigations, he has also lost secret battles to assert his power as a former president and to silence his former aides, whose testimony is being sought by investigators. At least two sealed judgments, one by the chief justice of the federal district court in Washington and another by a three-member appellate panel, appear to have limited his ability to exercise his authority as “executive privilege.” A fight by media organizations, including POLITICO, to make these verdicts public is expected later this month. Trump’s already dire legal problems will only get worse

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button