Trump’s legal issues: What happened this week
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Just try keeping track of the dizzying web of legal issues confronting or somehow involving former President Donald Trump and his allies, all of which he lumps into the category of “witch hunt.”
Here are some of the major developments this week:
- Classified documents – The Justice Department on Friday officially appealed the appointment of the special master to oversee the review of documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August. The special master had been requested by Trump, was granted by a Trump-appointed judge and had the effect of slowing the investigation.
- Congress – The House January 6 committee subpoenaed him for documents and testimony as it wrapped up its final public hearing before the midterm elections. The lawmakers want Trump to respond to their allegations, backed up by testimony at hearings, that Trump personally helped incite the Capitol insurrection and tried to overturn the 2020 election. Trump responded with a 14-page screed calling the committee’s inquiry a “Charade and Witch Hunt” and repeating his lies about the 2020 elections – but without saying whether he will comply with the subpoena. Read a fact check of Trump’s letter.
- New York – The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, is trying to block Trump’s company from transferring assets to any entities without court approval. The state says the same day it sued the Trump Organization, the company incorporated a new entity in Delaware. James is suing Trump, his three oldest children and his company for misrepresenting their assets to obtain favorable loan rates and tax benefits. In testimony before investigators earlier this year, before invoking his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, Trump called the probe “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
- Georgia – CNN reported that a pro-Trump operative who was caught on tape participating in a Georgia voting system breach after the 2020 election testified before the special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the outcome in that state, according to two sources.
- Federal January 6 investigation – Two former Trump administration officials were spotted outside the Washington, DC, courthouse where the federal grand jury investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack meets. Marc Short was former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff. Kash Patel was a Trump national security aide and Trump loyalist.
- Supreme Court – The court declined Trump’s request for it to intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation related to the Mar-a-Lago classified documents saga.
There’s another case on the horizon:
- New York City – Trump’s company goes on trial by New York City prosecutors for breaking tax laws later this month. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that prosecutors could access his financial information, of course Trump called it a “witch hunt.”
Not all of the developments are unwelcome to Trump:
- Special counsel – Igor Danchenko, the primary source for the infamous and flawed dossier that helped spark the FBI probe of Trump’s ties to Russia after the 2016 election, is on trial for lying to the FBI, although the judge dropped one of five charges against him Friday. The Russia investigation, remember, was what Trump first started calling a “witch hunt.”
The Danchenko trial is likely the last gasp of special counsel John Durham’s inquiry into the Russia probe, which seems like a lifetime ago. That the Trump-requested special counsel to investigate the Russia investigation is still active years later means we can expect the aftershocks of Trump’s presidency to continue for years to come.
It could also be a model for what’s to come. While inquiries into Trump’s finances and his 2020 and 2021 actions led by state, city and federal authorities would continue, if Republicans win control of the House of Representatives as a result of November’s election, they’ve indicated they’ll shut down the January 6 committee and launch an investigation of the investigation.
We do not know how these various inquiries will end, but we can assume Trump will continue to say that elections are rigged even if Republicans seize control of the House and the Senate. He said there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, which he won. He said there was massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, which he publicly refuses to admit he lost.
And we can assume he will continue to call any investigation a “witch hunt.”
Another thing the House committee tried to do was allege Trump’s plan to reject the 2020 results was “premeditated.”
As CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted Thursday, Trump made very clear leading up to the election that he would reject the results.
“He wasn’t keeping the plan he eventually executed – insisting the election was stolen – a big secret,” Cillizza wrote of Trump, appending a list of times in 2020 when Trump refused to say he would abide by the results.
Now Republicans are looking to win control of the House and potentially the Senate, uncovering a great flaw of Trump’s consistent gripes: If it’s all rigged, how can Republicans win?
CNN’s Michael Warren reports from Georgia that voters there could reelect Republican Gov. Brian Kemp – in part because he stood up to Trump in 2020 by refusing to overturn election results in the state – but also send Democrat Raphael Warnock back to the Senate, in part because Trump’s hand-picked candidate, Herschel Walker, is so flawed.
Trump will benefit if Republicans can seize some power in the coming election, and he will declare it to be a vindication. But there’s a strong argument that any GOP victory in November will happen in spite of him – which is something Republicans will need to grapple with because Trump and his allegations of a “witch hunt” aren’t going anywhere.