Trump's old legal troubles return to haunt him this week

Trump's old legal troubles return to haunt him this week
Donald Trump at Trump Tower, photo via Shutterstock.

If last week was considered Joe Biden's no-good, very bad week, there's a case to be made that this week was Donald Trump's no-good, even worse week.

Let's look at all of the legal cases and investigations that seem to be pushing forward against Trump despite his best efforts to repel them with lawsuits and delaying tactics. The good news for Trump is that it appears the Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided that all of the obstruction of justice Trump perpetrated in plain sight during the Russia investigation is not worth prosecuting. Unless they make a move very quickly, the statute of limitations is about to run out on that front. So much for Robert Mueller's sanguine pronouncement that we needn't worry about his refusal to recommend indictment because, of course, they could always do it after the president left office.

But that's the only good news on this front that Trump's received in recent days.

The former president is still facing a flurry of legal investigations from New York to Georgia while the evidence is piling up at the January 6th committee and the DOJ. The case that seems to be closest to coming to a head is the civil investigation by New York State Attorney General Leticia James. Last Tuesday, James filed a response to one of Trump's frivolous arguments with a filing and a statement that her office has "uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years."

It's not that anyone's surprised by this. The New York Times exposed the massive tax fraud perpetrated by Trump's father over decades — and Trump learned everything he knows about "business" from his daddy. There have been numerous other journalistic deep dives into Trump's corrupt business practices defrauding customers, investors and insurance companies. The joint investigation by Pro-Publica and WNYC called Trump Inc. and the book by its main producer Andrea Bernstein called "American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power" alone uncovered years of misrepresentations and double-dealing in Trump's real estate businesses in the U.S. and abroad. This family business — as we know from previous cases such as the Trump University fraud case which Trump settled for 25 million dollars when he assumed the presidency and the embarrassing con game they ran called the "Trump Foundation" which turned out to be little more than a slush fund for themselves — has been skirting the edge of criminality for years.

This case by the NY attorney general is the first to take an official look at some of those allegations and it appears that there is plenty of evidence to back them up. For instance, James brought receipts showing that Trump had refinanced the loan on his 40 Wall Street tower in Lower Manhattan by claiming that it was worth $735 million when it was worth less than half of that. The Trump Organization's Aberdeen Golf Club's value was massively inflated based upon lies about how many luxury houses it was planning to build. The AG also claims that Trump gave untrue statements to the IRS, overstating the values of land at two of his golf courses by counting the values of nonexistent mansions for which he then took deductions. I don't know about you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if any of us tried to do something like that even on a tiny scale we would be in serious criminal trouble.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office has an ongoing criminal investigation based upon the same evidence and there is some coordination between the two offices, a fact which Trump and his offspring are using to argue that they should not have to appear under subpoena. You see, if they wish to avoid incriminating themselves in the criminal case, they would have to take the 5th in the civil case, and unlike criminal cases, that can be used against them.

Just think about that: the former president of the United States and his children, one of whom was a senior white house adviser, are arguing that they will not be able to testify because they might incriminate themselves criminally. You might think they're just trying to delay the proceedings but they must actually be very worried about criminal exposure. According to James, Eric Trump, the only one to testify until now, took the 5th 500 times in his deposition.

The criminal investigation has been much quieter than the New York attorney general's but they have indicted the Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer on unrelated fraud charges and since the case is intertwined with the civil case, one can assume they are operating from the same evidence. It's possible they won't be able to put together criminal charges from what we've seen, but if what James says is true, that means something is terribly wrong with our criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, the district attorney investigating Trump's attempt to coerce state and local officials into committing voter fraud has requested a special grand jury to hear the case. That's the one where he was recorded calling up the Secretary of State to tell him he would be in legal trouble if he didn't "find" 11,800 votes to put Trump over the top. It looks as though that case isn't going away any time soon either.

Back in DC, Trump's hand-picked Supreme Court betrayed him once again, ruling this week that the National Archives can turn over the records requested by the January 6th committee. (I would be very surprised if lawyers in the White House who were reportedly so concerned about the president's unconstitutional coup planning, did not write notes to the file outlining their objections.) The committee subpoenaed Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and has asked Ivanka Trump to appear voluntarily to tell what she knows about her father sitting on his hands while his supporters sacked the Capitol.

And now we have this story of Giuliani coordinating the use of fraudulent Trump "alternate electors" who actually sent fake documents to the National Archives, which may end up being the most notorious case of voter fraud in history. (It's enough to make your head explode.) Two state attorneys general have referred the case to the Department of Justice and it's hard to imagine that they will not look into this. People are in jail right now for far less.

It's raining bad legal news for Donald Trump. Unfortunately, what this means is that Trump will definitely run for president which he believes will insulate him and his family from legal exposure. Coming from the man who won his election with promises to "lock her up!" that's especially rich, but this is Trump. And if he were to win (or "win") in 2024, he would gain himself four more years in which to run out the clock on all prospective crimes since the DOJ policy is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Perhaps that's one norm that really deserves to be shattered.

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