Trump's post-presidency legal woes are multiplying fast
This story was first published at The Progressive.
The legal noose is tightening around Donald Trump's neck. Although we are still far from seeing the former commander-in-chief outfitted in a prison jumpsuit, Trump faces legal jeopardy on a variety of fronts related to his long history of corruption in the private sector and his malfeasance as President. And make no mistake: as Trump runs out of cards to play, the jeopardy becomes less and less of a political game he can spin in his favor. Things are getting serious.
Several recent developments have improved the odds that Trump will be brought to justice.
"If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail. But not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does."
On July 1, the Trump Organization and its former Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, were indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. for tax fraud, grand larceny, and conspiracy.
While Trump has not yet been charged individually, the indictment refers to an "unindicted co-conspirator" who allegedly "agreed to and implemented" Weisselberg's tax evasion scheme. Since little happens in Trump's financial empire without his knowledge and consent, the reference points to Trump, who could well be named as a defendant in the near future by way of an amended indictment.
Attorney General Letitia James has joined Vance's criminal probe, fortifying the courtroom firepower arrayed against Trump. In 2019, James opened a separate civil investigation of Trump's business practices that could result in significant fines and the formal dissolution of the Trump Organization.
In addition, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis has convened two grand juries to investigate Trump for pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In March, Willis reportedly hired attorney John Floyd, a nationally recognized authority on racketeering and conspiracy law, to advise her on the probe.
Even if Trump manages to dodge personal liability in New York and Georgia, he will hardly be in the clear. First and foremost, he will find himself squarely in the crosshairs of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol. The committee was established to report on the causes and consequences of the insurrection that delayed and nearly prevented Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the Electoral College.
The committee held its first public session on July 27, featuring dramatic testimony from four law enforcement officers (two from the Capitol Police and two from the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department) who defended Congress against the violent mob of MAGA rioters that stormed the Capitol on January 6. Together, they recounted the horror, brutality, and racism of the rampage, laying the blame for the event squarely on Trump and his high-level enablers.
As Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn told the committee: "If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail. But not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does. It was an attack carried out on January 6 and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that."
The select committee is equipped with subpoena power to fulfill Dunn's wishes.
In a July 28 interview with MSNBC's Ari Melber, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman said he believes the committee will use that power to subpoena and depose Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, who revved up the rioters on January 6 in speeches delivered before the assault on the Capitol. The committee, Ackerman said, will piece together a damning "jigsaw puzzle" to explain exactly what occurred on January 6.
"And they don't really have much of a defense here," Ackerman explained. "I think the more [the committee] can dig into the evidence showing that Trump and Rudy Giuliani and Brooks knew these people had come . . . looking for a fight—the more they can show what they were doing [was] inciting this riot. That's not going to fly well with [a] jury [in] the District of Columbia."
According to press reports, the committee is working on its future witness list and preparing to set a new round of hearings. And while it remains to be seen if Trump actually will be summoned, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the panel's chairman, has publicly stated the committee won't hesitate to call Trump, or officials from the Trump Administration, or members of Congress, such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, and Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who spoke with Trump on January 6. Thompson has also vowed to go to court to enforce any subpoenas that are issued.
With or without Trump's testimony, the committee is likely to amass an unassailable record of the former President's part in inciting the insurrection, setting the stage for a referral to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.
In an encouraging sign that the DOJ is taking the investigation seriously, the department issued a set of letters late last month to former Trump Administration officials, informing that it would not invoke the doctrine of executive privilege to shield them from testifying before Congress about the Capitol attack.
In a similar vein, the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel recently published a formal opinion, confirming that the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service "must furnish" Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Compounding Trump's legal miseries further is the federal civil suit filed by Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, against Trump for inciting the insurrection. Swalwell's complaint, which also names Giuliani and Brooks as defendants, seeks both compensatory and punitive monetary damages, as well as a judicial declaration that the trio violated federal law.
In a court filing last week, the DOJ declined to intervene in the case and take on Brooks's defense, as it would in many lawsuits involving federal employees. In reasoning that also applies to Trump, the department explained that Brooks's involvement in the events leading up to the Capitol attack was beyond the scope and duties of his employment.
The DOJ is also moving forward with the prosecution of more than 500 Capitol rioters, some of whom have come to blame Trump for their conduct.
All of this is very bad news for the former President. The key now is to ramp up the pressure and persevere until Trump and the neo-fascist movement he represents are finally held to account.
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