For most of his 76 years, Donald Trump has avoided significant accountability on a long—and ever-expanding—list of allegations. But on Thursday, he became the first-ever current or former U.S. president to be indicted on criminal charges.
Just a couple of weeks after Stormy Daniels met with prosecutors as part of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe of Trump’s alleged hush money payments to the adult film star in exchange for keeping their alleged affair quiet as the 2016 presidential campaign neared, a grand jury has voted to indict the twice-impeached ex-president.
In a 2018 tweetstorm, Trump all but admitted to making a $130,000 payment to Daniels, via his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen, claiming such things are “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.” He accused Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, of extorting him, and has denied ever having sex with the entertainer.
Cohen previously pleaded guilty to federal charges associated with the payment to Daniels, which he said he made at Trump’s behest, and was sentenced to federal prison.
Trump, as is his wont, insists he is the target of a politically motivated witch hunt, and that Bragg, the first Black man to serve as Manhattan DA, is a “racist.” In December 2022, the Trump Organization was convicted on 17 counts of criminal tax fraud, and ordered to pay a fine of $1.6 million. Longtime Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg is now serving five months in jail, to be followed by five years of probation.
Thursday’s indictment will test Trump’s assertion that any prosecutor with the temerity to haul him into court would risk touching off “problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.”
“That’s not inciting, I’m just saying what my opinion is,” Trump told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt last September. “I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it.”
But as he fights the Stormy Daniels case, Trump must also simultaneously endure numerous other probes that could not only worsen his existing legal situation, but bring down his family and businesses, as well.
FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
In Trump’s words, it was part of “a perfect phone call.” In Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ eyes, the losing presidential candidate pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to carry out a baseless scheme he and his allies concocted to undo Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, was very likely a felony.
In this case, a copy of the call, which was recorded, leaked almost immediately.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry,” Trump warned Raffensberger, hoping to convince his fellow Republican to hand him an unearned win. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
Once again, the outgoing president wasted little time putting himself squarely at the scene of what then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris described as a “baldfaced, bold abuse of power.”
“I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia. He was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the ‘ballots under table’ scam, ballot destruction, out of state ‘voters’, dead voters, and more,” Trump tweeted on Jan. 3, 2021, rattling off various debunked conspiracy theories trying to explain away his loss. “He has no clue!”
Willis last year impaneled a special-purpose grand jury to hear testimony and issue a report on Trump’s alleged attempts to subvert the election outcome in Georgia. The panel subpoenaed dozens of witnesses and interviewed 75 of them, including Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who in 2017 performed a sudden about-face from outspoken Trump detractor to rock-ribbed Trump defender.
Although the now-dissolved special grand jury created by Willis does not itself have the authority to issue indictments, it could, and did, recommend them. Willis will now make a decision on whether or not to bring charges against Trump and his network of enablers.
“The Grand Jury heard extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud from poll workers, investigators, technical experts, and state of Georgia employees and officials, as well as from persons still claiming that such fraud took place,” a highly abbreviated public portion of the panel’s sealed Feb. 16 report states. “We find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”
A “majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it,” without providing further specifics, but concluding that the panel “recommends that the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”
In a series of permissible, but controversial, interviews after the special-purpose grand jury’s work was done, forewoman Emily Kohrs said a dozen or more indictments could be coming. She did not name names, but coyly suggested Trump was among those on the panel’s list.
“There are no major plot twists waiting for you,” Kohrs told CNN’s Erin Burnett last month.
In response, Trump took to his Truth Social social media platform—which is itself under investigation for possible money laundering crimes—and lambasted Kohrs while attacking Willis as a racist.
“This is not JUSTICE, this is an illegal Kangaroo Court,” Trump wrote. “Atlanta is leading the Nation in Murder and other Violent Crimes.”
Trump has now tried to derail the investigation, arguing to an Atlanta judge that he can’t get a fair trial after Kohrs’ grand media tour.
Trump is not the only one under investigation in Fulton County. Former New York City mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, a close adviser to the ex-president during his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, is also a target.
MAR-A-LAGO CLASSIFIED DOCS AND JAN. 6
In addition to the local and state cases in New York and Fulton County, federal authorities also have suspected criminality by Trump in their sights.
DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to spearhead the investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents found at his private Florida club after he left office, as well as Trump’s bid to reverse his 2020 loss, has reportedly expanded and intensified his efforts in recent months.
Smith last month subpoenaed ex-Vice President Mike Pence in relation to his former boss’ alleged election crimes. The development followed “months of negotiations between federal prosecutors and Pence’s legal team,” according to ABC News, which called the subpoena “a major escalation” in the investigation. A few days later, The New York Times said Smith was “moving aggressively” in an attempt to “make good on his goal of resolving as quickly as possible whether Mr. Trump, still a leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, should face charges.”
Trump, who managed to blame Pence for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that he in fact instigated, lashed out—predictably—at Smith, a highly respected former war crimes prosecutor, from the get-go.
“This fully weaponized monster, Jack Smith, shouldn’t be let anywhere near the political persecution of ‘President Donald J. Trump,’” Trump posted on Truth Social after Smith was appointed. “I did nothing wrong on January 6th, and nothing wrong with the Democrats’ fix on the Document Hoax, that is, unless the six previous Presidents did something wrong also….”
In another, Trump called for Smith to be removed, and accused him, without offering any evidence, of being mentally ill and unfit for the task.
“Fire a man who may very well turn out to be a criminal, Jack Smith,” Trump complained on Truth Social. “His conflicts, unfairness, and mental state of derangement make him totally unfit for the job of ‘getting Trump.’ Go after Biden and the Biden Crime Family instead. Like Bill Barr, the U.S. Attorneys in Delaware and Illinois are weak, ineffective, and afraid to do what must be done. The Election was RIGGED, and we are now losing our Country. We can’t let that happen. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
In various other “truths,” Trump has slammed Smith as “a Radical Left Prosecutor, who is totally controlled by Eric Holder and Obama,” called his investigation “a RIGGED SCAM,” described him as a “political hit man,” a “Trump Hater,” a “Trump Hating THUG,” and an “unfair savage,” claimed, groundlessly, that Smith “should never be allowed to work on anything having to do with me because of his and his family’s anger, hatred, and bias.”
“Did nothing wrong on Jan 6th (Peacefully & Patrioticly), or with Documents (Check out past presidents),” Trump wrote.
The “world’s greatest dealmaker” also deemed it unfair that “Mad Dog Psycho Jack Smith” is probing him but not any other former commanders-in-chief, posting on Truth Social late last month, that Smith “should should stop this Witch Hunt altogether or, at a minimum, should give Biden, Obama, and all of the others the same treatment!”
This week, Mike Pence was ordered by a federal judge to appear before a grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to sources cited by the Associated Press. The former VP had attempted to get out of testifying against his former boss by claiming an exception under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered one of Trump’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran, to turn over his notes and audio transcripts from his dealings with Trump, piercing the veil of attorney-client privilege. Corcoran testified before a Washington, D.C., grand jury last week in the classified documents probe.
NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
While the first three cases could mean prison for Trump, New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 billion lawsuit against Trump for what she deemed a spectacular pattern of financial fraud, could kill his company and saddle him with up to $1 billion in fines and costs.
“The number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering, affecting most if not all of the real estate holdings in any given year,” the suit alleges.
The Trump Organization, according to the filing, historically misled lenders and insurers about its balance sheet and properties, including Mar-a-Lago and New York City’s Trump Tower, to get “beneficial financial terms.” Trump and his adult children claimed certain buildings they owned were worth multiples of their actual value, submitting in excess of 200 bogus valuations across at least 11 annual statements. The lawsuit contends Trump’s company improperly benefited to the tune of $250 million, which New York State is now moving to claw back.
In one example cited by James, the Trump family allegedly claimed a block of Manhattan apartments an appraiser had valued at $750,000 were actually worth some $50 million. In another, James noted that Trump listed his own Trump Tower residence as clocking on at 30,000 square feet when it was in reality 11,000.
“Tripling the size of the apartment for valuation was fraud, not an honest mistake,” James said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
James is seeking to bar Trump from applying for loans or purchasing any commercial properties in New York State for five years. She is also asking a judge to permanently ban Trump, sons Don Jr. and Eric, and daughter Ivanka, from ever again running a business in New York.
The complaint filed by James is a civil one, and does not itself carry the threat of indictment. However, it notes that James shared her discoveries with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, specifying that she believes the Trumps are guilty of bank fraud. James also said in the suit that the Trump Org’s financial filings contravened a variety of state laws.
As has come to be expected, a splenetic Trump bashed James on Truth Social, complaining about being the target of a “Another Witch Hunt by a racist Attorney General, Letitia James, who failed in her run for Governor, getting almost zero support from the public, and now is doing poorly against Law & Order A.G. candidate, highly respected Michael Henry.” (James won.)
Trump continued, taking full advantage of Truth Social’s 500-character limit.
“I never thought this case would be brought—until I saw her really bad poll numbers. She is a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform, despite the fact that the city is one of the crime and murder disasters of the world under her watch!”
In early November, Trump announced on Truth Social that he was suing James in an attempt to stop her suit from proceeding. His suit, which he filed in Florida, called James’ New York suit “a relentless, pernicious, public, and unapologetic crusade against President Trump, a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, with the stated goal of destroying him personally, financially, and politically.” (Trump dropped the suit in January, after the case wound up before a judge who hit him and his attorney Alina Habba with nearly $1 million in fines over a separate suit against Hillary Clinton he declared frivolous.)
The penalties Trump and his kids are facing are what anyone else would face for “the same misconduct,” James emphasized after bringing the November action.
“Everyday people cannot lie to a bank about how much money they have in order to get a favorable loan or send their kid to college, and if they did, the government would throw the book at them,” James said at the time. “Why should this be any different?”
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