Thursday provided an important reminder that Donald Trump’s legal problems are far from over.
First, New York Attorney General Letitia James asked a New York court to hold the former President in civil contempt for his alleged refusal to turn over certain documents related to the investigation into the possibility that he over- and under-valued his assets to secure favorable loan terms.
According to a filing from James’ office, on the day last month that was established as a deadline for Trump to turn over the documents, his legal team instead filed 16 objections to James’ request. James’ office asked the court that Trump be fined $10,000 per day until all of the requested documents are turned over.
Then came word out of New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office clarifying that its investigation into Trump was not concluded. “Investigations are not linear. So we are following the leads in front of us, and that’s what we’re doing,” Bragg told CNN. “The investigation is very much ongoing.”
That pronouncement comes six weeks after two prosecutors left the investigation – a development that led Trump’s legal team to declare what now looks like a preemptive victory in the case.
Bragg’s office is looking into tax fraud allegations.
The twin developments Thursday highlight the fact that the biggest impediment to a Trump campaign return in 2024 may well be legal, not political.
On the latter front, the Republican Party appears to be entirely at Trump’s beck and call – and early polling suggests he would have little trouble in a primary.
But Trump’s legal entanglements remain serious. In addition to the two probes in New York, some Democrats on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol are pushing for charges against the former President.
Trump also faces a defamation suit from E. Jean Carroll. Last month, Trump lost a bid to countersue, with the judge calling the countersuit “futile” and accusing the former President of filing it at least partially as a delaying tactic.
To be clear: Trump has not been charged or convicted of anything. And he denies all of the allegations against him.
But it’s impossible to not see the myriad cases working their way through the legal system as, at best, a big distraction for the former President as he looks to his own political future.
Trump’s legal strategy has often been to sue everyone and everything as a way to muddy the waters around any one case and to slow down proceedings.
That strategy may well bear fruit in regards to the inquiries made by the January 6 committee. Several top Trump confidantes – Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino – have all refused to testify, and have all been held in contempt by the Democratic-led House. But if Republicans take control of the House in the midterm elections, the committee’s work will likely end abruptly.
That reality has led some Democrats to pressure Attorney General Merrick Garland to act with alacrity on recommendations made by the January 6 committee.
“Do your job – so we can do ours,” Virginia Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria told Garland last month.