President Donald Trump will return to just plain old Donald Trump in 71 days.
And in case you forgot, there are at least a half dozen ongoing cases involving him – and placing him in various levels of legal jeopardy – still pending.
Because there’s been SO much legal turmoil around the President for his entire first term, I thought it might make sense to go over the pending litigation involving him and where it all stands at the moment.
1) Manhattan district attorney’s office looking into financial inner workings of the Trump Organization. This case, which is being overseen by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., grew out of questions regarding several hush money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election by then-Trump fixer Michael Cohen to women alleging they had engaged in extramarital affairs with Trump. (Cohen told Congress, under oath, in 2019 that there was “no doubt” in his mind that Trump knew about the hush money payments.) The investigation is broader than just the hush money, however. As CNN’s Kara Scannell and Erica Orden wrote last month:
“Prosecutors have suggested in court filings that the investigation could examine whether the President and his company engaged in bank fraud, insurance fraud, criminal tax fraud and falsification of business records.”
Trump has repeatedly sought to block the DA’s subpoena of eight years of his tax returns and financial records as part of the investigation.
2) New York state attorney general examining how Trump valued his assets. In the wake of Cohen’s testimony alleging that Trump, along with his family members, had repeatedly “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” New York AG Letitia James announced that she would investigate the claims to see if they elevate to the level of fraud. Just last month, Eric Trump was questioned under oath about whether he or the Trump organization sought to artificially inflate and deflate their assets.
3) Attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, DC, suing over the emoluments clause. This suit was originally brought way back in 2017, alleging that Trump was violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign governments’ spending in his Trump hotel in downtown Washington. (Much more on the emoluments clause here.) The case appeared dead until May, when the 4th Circuit overturned the ruling of a three-judge panel that said the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case. Trump has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. (There is also a second emoluments case that is still pending – this one brought by a group of restaurants and a hotel operator.)
4) E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit. Days before the 2020 election, a federal judge rejected an attempt by Trump, represented by Department of Justice lawyers, to effectively dismiss a case brought by Carroll alleging that Trump had raped her in the 1990s. He denied her allegation, saying, “She’s not my type.” The case is now proceeding through the federal court system.
5) Summer Zervos’ defamation lawsuit. Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” sued Trump back in 2017, arguing that in his denial of her allegation that he had sexually assaulted her in 2007, he had defamed her and subjected her to harassment. Trump lost a bid to dismiss the case in late 2019, but the proceedings – including a possible subpoena for Trump to provide a deposition – have been put on hold until he leaves office.
6) Mary Trump’s lawsuit. The niece of the President – and the author of the scathing bestseller “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” – sued Trump in September, alleging that he, his sister and his late brother had committed fraud to keep her from getting her fair share of the estate of Trump’s father, Fred Sr.
Aside from those half-dozen suits is the question of whether Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice for his attempts to impede and inhibit the investigation into the 2016 election and Russia’s role in it by special counsel Robert Mueller. In a back-and-forth during congressional testimony in July 2019, Mueller, a former FBI director, suggested that he believed Trump could be charged once he left office.
It’s impossible to know whether any of these pending lawsuits will ever emerge as a genuine threat to Trump. Especially when you consider that Trump has, for decades, shown a willingness to exercise absolutely every legal avenue to protect himself, muddy the waters and slow the proceedings to a crawl.
What is clear, however, is that Trump will have fewer airtight legal protections as a former president than he did as a sitting president. Far fewer.