Former President Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is railing against multiple legal cases threatening to scupper or, at least, complicate his bid for a second term in the White House. During last Saturday’s rally drawing thousands of supporters in Waco, Texas, he condemned the inquiries into his business, private, and presidential affairs, dismissed all legal probes of his activities and called himself “the most innocent man in the history of our country.” He is, however, the only US president who has been impeached twice without being expelled from office.
Trump has been asked to testify on specific cases before by a grand jury which will decide in secret if he should be indicted. If he is indicted, prosecution and defence lawyers would present evidence which could lead to acceptance or dismissal of formal charges. In court he would face a trial before a judge and jury. If the case goes forward, Trump would be the first US president to face a criminal case or cases.
He chose Wako, Texas, for his rally because it was the site of an infamous televised shootout in 1993 between federal agents and members of the Branch Davidian religious cult that slew 86 people, including men, women, children, and lawmen. This event fuelled anti-Washington sentiments which empower Trump today among evangelical Christian followers who proclaim, “God, guns, and Trump!” Trump also picked the state of Texas because it voted for him rather than his Democrat rival Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
In a bid to pre-empt the authorities, Trump announced he would be arrested on March 21 and warned that taking him into custody could provoke violent protests. Having falsely claimed that he won the 2020 election, he was careful to call this a warning to avoid accusations of incitement. He faces possible prosecution for calling on armed supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan.6, 2021. They rioted at the Capitol to halt Congressional certification of Biden as president. A congressional committee has spent 18 months in closed and public hearings on what happened when Trump’s supporters reached the Capitol. They assaulted police, breached the building’s defences, entered the House of Representatives’ chamber and trashed offices of legislators who fled the premises in fear for their lives.
On the issue of Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, he faces jeopardy over an hour-long call he made to Georgia’s senior election official. Trump demanded he find 11,789 votes, the number required to give him victory over Biden in that state. He risks being charged with putting pressure on the official to commit election fraud, acquiring votes by illegal means, and making false statements about winning the election.
The case attracting most attention involves the alleged payment ahead of the 2016 election of $130,000 in “hush money” to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star who announced she had an affair with Trump. This payment was made by Trump’’s then attorney Michael Cohen, who had admitted he paid off Daniels and was reimbursed by Trump with cheques for “legal services.” Cohen was prosecuted and jailed for three years for his part in the payment which is above the $2,700 limit set for individual campaign contributions. By failing to disclose this overlarge payment, Trump may have violated federal rules.
A fraud and falsification investigation into the Trump Organisation for inflating the worth of properties to potential buyers and investors and deflating their value to evade tax has already led to a fine of $1.6 million and a five-month jail sentence for the Organisation’s chief financial officer.
The Department of Justice has been probing Trump’s illegal transfer after leaving office of 11,000 official documents, 100 of them classified, to his Mar-a-Largo resort home in Florida. Officials need to assess whether his handling of classified material could be harmful to national security. The discovery of small caches of documents at the homes of his Vice President Mike Pence and President Biden has, to some extent, undermined this case.
In addition to these official cases against Trump, The Washington Post lists a number of civil suits he faces and seeks to get dismissed on appeal.
New York is pursuing the fraud case against Trump and his children for allegedly inflating the assets of his real estate company. The prosecutor seeks $250 million and a ban on the four Trumps engaging in business in New York.
Another New York lawsuit mounted by columnist E. Jean Carroll charges defamation and battery by Trump following accusations that he assaulted her in a department store in 2009. He denies the accusations and was insulting about Carroll.
A class suit alleges that Trump, his company and his three oldest children duped four investors into putting thousands of dollars into a company making a videophone device made obsolete by smart phones.
Trump has been sued by a dozen Democratic legislators for inspiring the Capitol riot and by policemen racially abused and injured during violent confrontations.
Trump has secured dismissals of other cases and continues to command the loyalty of his core supporters as well as a majority of Republican voters. Surprisingly, FiveThirtyEight website reports that according to the latest polls 53.6 per cent of all US voters have an unfavourable opinion of him against 41.7 per cent who have a favourable view. These are startling figures considering how he behaves and what he has done to put himself in legal peril. This is ironic because Biden’s ratings are 52.9 per cent unfavourable and 42.9 per cent favourable. Little wonder Trump continues to run for president.
Criminal indictment would not prevent him from standing although some voters might not cast ballots for him since he could be convicted and jailed. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution mandates disqualification if any senator, representative, president or vice president “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government. Only the Jan.6 case can fall under this ban, but it has not been fully established. It is only possibility for forcing Trump to drop out of the race or deny him the presidency if he were to win in 2024. He could, however, be prevented from carrying on with the campaign and taking office if tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison in the other three main cases.