Donald Trump’s post-presidency appears likely to be taken up by meetings with lawyers and creditors, possible sworn depositions about tax practices or sexual assault allegations and, in some long-tail scenarios, fines, criminal charges, bankruptcy or other legal sanction.
With Trump gone from Washington, and now lacking the immunity protections of the presidency, prosecutors in at least three jurisdictions are either weighing or actively pursuing criminal cases against him, and a fourth prosecutor is investigating allegedly fraudulent business practices inside the Trump Organization.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is reportedly a major figure in two of the investigations, over more than $700,000 in “consulting fees” she allegedly received from the Trump Organization, which then allegedly claimed those fees as tax-deductible business expenses.
“This is harassment pure and simple,” Ivanka Trump tweeted in November, denying the allegations.
Donald Trump has long conducted himself, as a businessman and as president, as if the law did not apply to him or his cronies, dozens of whom he pardoned for crimes on the eve of his departure from office.
But criminal investigations now under way mean that the law might finally catch up to Trump in his post-presidency life, just as a $300m avalanche of debt coming due over four years that Trump has personally guaranteed threatens to sink him financially, according to a New York Times analysis of his tax records,
Trump has denied all wrongdoing, and his son Eric Trump has boasted that the Trump empire is healthy, with liquid real estate assets and branding opportunities overseas.
One solution to Trump’s financial woes might be suggested by the $170m he has raised since November, mostly from small donors, in a false “defend the election” campaign.
“You have a man who would get followed to the ends of the Earth by a hundred million Americans,” Eric Trump told the Associated Press, inflating by almost half the votes Trump received. “He created the greatest political movement in American history and his opportunities are endless.”
The legal hazards facing Trump can also seem endless. The Senate is preparing to hold a trial in Trump’s second impeachment, on charges that he incited the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol.
A conviction in the Senateis not only likely to result in Trump’s being barred from ever again holding office – it could increase the likelihood of criminal charges being brought against Trump by the US attorney’s office in Washington DC, which is investigating the attack on the Capitol.
“We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged,” acting US attorney Michael R Sherwin told reporters when asked directly about Trump, who directed the mob to march on the Capitol.
That statement echoed one by the Fulton county district attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, who is weighing an investigation of a phone call Trump made this month in which the president pressured the Georgia secretary of state to overturn the state’s election result.
“Like many Americans, I have found the news reports about the president’s telephone call with the Georgia secretary of state disturbing,” the prosecutor, Fani Wills, said in a statement. “Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable.”
The New York state attorney general, Laetitia James, who is conducting a civil, as opposed to a criminal, investigation, of Trump Organization business practices, made a similar statement on national television last month.
“President Trump cannot avoid justice in the great state of New York,” said James, whose office has previously, and successfully, pursued accusations of fraud within a Trump “university” and a Trump “charity”, leading to a $25m settlement and a $2m damages payment, respectively.
In perhaps the most threatening legal action facing Trump, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is conducting what his office has described as a “complex criminal investigation” into Trump’s business dealings, including sworn allegations by the Trump lawyer-turned-enemy Michael Cohen that the Trump Organization kept separate sets of books for tax and debt purposes.
Defending a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax records, in court documents Vance has cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”.
Vance’s investigation also encompasses hush payments Trump caused to be made to the pornographic movie actor Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougal. Cohen, who orchestrated the payments, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 to campaign finance violations in the scheme and has said he was directed by Trump.
The lawsuits do not stop there. The magazine writer E Jean Carroll, who accuses Trump of raping her inside a New York department store in the mid-1990s, has brought what legal observers see as a powerful defamation lawsuit against Trump for calling her a liar. Trump said in a 2019 Oval Office interview that the rape could not have happened because “she’s not my type”.
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, is representing clients in two other lawsuits against Trump, including one brought by Mary Trump, the former president’s niece, charging her uncle and two siblings with defrauding her of an inheritance worth millions.
“His terror is that he will no longer be protected by the office and will have to deal with these lawsuits,” Mary Trump told the Washington Post.
Kaplan is seeking sworn depositions from Trump in all three cases. “When we depose you, you’re not going to get away with that,” she told the Washington Post. “He had the mantle of the presidency, and that’s now gone.”