The notable legal clouds that continue to hang over Donald Trump

The notable legal clouds that continue to hang over Donald Trump


All eyes are on former President Donald Trump, who has launched another White House bid.

Prosecutors, investigators and lawmakers in Washington, DC, New York, Georgia, Florida and across the United States are among those who will be interested in what Trump has to say about the myriad legal issues facing the former president, his business and his allies.

Multiple federal and state investigations are ongoing regarding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, his handling of sensitive government documents and his family business.

Trump and his company deny any wrongdoing or criminality in all matters, state and federal, and has aggressively maintained his innocence. Trump has also won dismissals of two lawsuits this week in cases brought by his niece and his former attorney.

Here’s an updated list of notable investigations, lawsuits and controversies:

The Justice Department investigation continues into whether documents from the Trump White House were illegally mishandled when they were brought to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after he left office. A federal grand jury in Washington has been empaneled and has interviewed potential witnesses to how Trump handled the documents.

RELATED: The big numbers from the Mar-a-Lago search

The National Archives, charged with collecting and sorting presidential material, has previously said that at least 15 boxes of White House records were recovered from Mar-a-Lago – including some classified records.

Any unauthorized retention or destruction of White House documents could violate a criminal law that prohibits the removal or destruction of official government records, legal experts told CNN.

The House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack has uncovered dramatic evidence of Trump’s actions before and on January 6, especially efforts to use the levers of government to overturn the election.

The committee is expected to issue a report before the end of the year, presumably marking the end of its investigation – especially if the Republicans take over the House of Representatives.

During the panel’s hearings this summer, fingers were pointed at GOP lawmakers and Trump allies who tried to help overturn the election and Trump White House officials who failed to stop the former president’s actions.

The House panel and Trump are also enmeshed in a legal fight over whether the former president must comply with a subpoena for documents and his testimony.

The Justice Department has an investigation of its own into the post-2020 election period.

While DOJ has not acted publicly during the so-called quiet period leading up to the midterms, a grand jury in Washington has been hearing from witnesses.

Recently, DOJ moved to compel additional testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin.

Trump has been fighting to keep former advisers from testifying about certain conversations, citing executive and attorney-client privileges to keep information confidential or slow down criminal investigators.

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis is overseeing a special grand jury investigating what Trump or his allies may have done in their efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.

The probe was launched last year following Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he pushed the Republican to “find” votes to overturn the election results.

Willis, a Democrat, has also informed all 16 of the individuals who signed an “unofficial electoral certificate,” which was ultimately sent to the National Archives in late 2020, that they may be indicted in the probe.

The investigation may be drawing closer to Trump as well. Former New York City Mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has appeared before the grand jury, as has Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham lost a court bid to avoid testifying.

Willis had pledged to wait until after the midterms to make announcements about possible charges.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is looking at an aspect of a plot to put forward fake GOP electors from seven states.

Fake certificates were created by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace valid presidential electors from their states with a pro-Trump slate.

An ongoing trial in New York involves Trump’s namesake business, the Trump Organization.

Manhattan prosecutors told a jury the case is about “greed and cheating,” laying out an alleged 15-year scheme within the Trump Organization to pay high-level executives in perks like luxury cars and apartments without paying taxes on them.

Two Trump Organization entities are charged with nine counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records in what prosecutors allege was a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation provided to employees.

Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to his role in the tax scheme this summer. He testified in the trial recently, although he is not cooperating with prosecutors. The company has pleaded not guilty.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, after a lengthy investigation, sued Trump, three of his adult children and the Trump Organization in September, alleging they were involved in an expansive fraud lasting over a decade that the former president used to enrich himself.

James alleged the fraud touched all aspects of the Trump business, including its properties and golf courses. According to the lawsuit, the Trump Organization deceived lenders, insurers and tax authorities by inflating the value of his properties using misleading appraisals.

James is seeking $250 million in allegedly ill-gotten funds.

This week, retired Judge Barbara Jones was named to serve as a monitor over the company. James said one is needed to prevent the real estate company from continuing what the state has alleged is a decade-long fraud.

Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigation politically motivated based on James’ electoral ambitions.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg inherited that office’s probe into Trump’s businesses, but it has slowed significantly.

Prosecutors were focusing on the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial statements when seeking financing, people familiar with the matter have told CNN.

Earlier this year, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, two senior prosecutors on the team, resigned after Bragg informed them that he wasn’t prepared to move forward with criminal charges, CNN’s Kara Scannell reported.

A special grand jury hearing evidence in the case expired in April, but a new one could be seated in the future.

Bragg has maintained the investigation is ongoing and prosecutors are reviewing new evidence. He said he will issue a public statement or an indictment when it’s completed.

Democratic lawmakers are still trying to get hold of Trump’s tax records from the Internal Revenue Service.

A federal appeals court sided with a House Ways and Means Committee request – originally made in 2019 – to obtain the returns, upholding a ruling from a Trump-nominated district court judge.

Trump appealed to the Supreme Court, which is poised to rule at any time.

Several members of the US Capitol Police and Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police are suing Trump, saying his words and actions incited the riot.

The various cases accuse Trump of directing assault and battery; aiding and abetting assault and battery; and violating local Washington, DC, laws that prohibit incitement of riots and disorderly conduct.

A federal judge in February said Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot are “the essence of civil conspiracy,” and lawsuits by the police officers have been allowed to proceed.

Trump and his top advisers have not been charged with any crimes. Trump and others who are sued have argued they are not responsible for the actions of the people who stormed the Capitol.

Magazine writer E. Jean Carroll alleged Trump raped her in a New York department store dressing room in the mid 1990s and defamed her when he denied the rape, said she was not his “type” and alleged she made the claim to boost sales of her book.

Trump and the Justice Department said Trump was a federal employee and his statements denying Carroll’s allegations were made in response to reporters’ questions while he was at the White House. They argue the Justice Department should be substituted as the defendant, which, because the government cannot be sued for defamation, would end the lawsuit.

In September, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump was a federal employee when he denied Carroll’s claim of rape and sexual assault.

Early next year, the Washington, DC, appeals court will determine if Trump was acting within the scope of his employment when he made the allegedly defamatory statements. Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the lawsuit has set a trial for early February.

Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, sued Trump, former Attorney General William Barr and others, alleging they put him back in jail to prevent him from promoting his upcoming book while under home confinement.

Cohen was serving the remainder of his sentence for lying to Congress and campaign violations at home, due to Covid-19 concerns, when he started an anti-Trump social media campaign in summer 2020. In retaliation, Cohen said he was sent back to prison and spent 16 days in solitary.

A federal judge on November 14 threw out the lawsuit. District Judge Lewis Liman said he was empathetic to Cohen’s position but said Supreme Court precedent bars him from allowing the case to move forward.

In 2020, Mary Trump sued her uncle Donald Trump, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired judge, and the executor of her late uncle Robert Trump’s estate, alleging “they designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited.”

On November 14, a New York state judge threw out the lawsuit, saying that Mary Trump’s claims are barred by an earlier settlement she reached over 20 years ago.

Former top FBI counter-intelligence official Peter Strzok, who was terminated by the FBI in 2018 after the revelation of anti-Trump texts Strzok exchanged with a top lawyer at the bureau, Lisa Page, has sued DOJ alleging he was improperly terminated. Strzok is now seeking to depose Trump for the case, though the judge has not said yet how she’ll rule on a DOJ request to block the deposition.

Strzok and Page were constant targets of verbal attacks by Trump and his allies as part of the larger ire Trump expressed toward the FBI during the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump repeatedly and publicly called for Strzok’s ouster until Strzok was fired in August 2018.

A federal judge recently dismissed a lawsuit from star Trump impeachment witness Alexander Vindman, who had accused Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and former Trump White House staffers of smearing him so that he lost his federal job. Former President Trump was not named in the suit.

Vindman alleged the defendants conspired against him to cause him harm after Trump’s first impeachment proceeding.

Judge James Boasberg of the DC District Court wrote that Vindman wasn’t able to show the group worked together with the “specific goal of intimidating Vindman from testifying or performing his job” or injure him by taking unlawful action.

A federal judge in September dismissed Trump’s lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, several ex-FBI officials and more than two dozen other people and entities that he claims conspired to undermine his 2016 campaign by trying to vilify him with fabricated information tying him to Russia.

“What (Trump’s lawsuit) lacks in substance and legal support it seeks to substitute with length, hyperbole, and the settling of scores and grievances,” US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks wrote.

Trump is appealing the decision, but Middlebrooks this month also ordered sanctions against Trump lawyers Alina Habba, Michael Madaio, Peter Ticktin, Jamie Alan Sasson and their law firms to pay $50,000 in penalties to the court and $16,274.23 in legal fees to Charles Dolan, one of more than two dozen people or entities named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The former president is suing his niece and The New York Times in New York state court over the disclosure of his tax information.

Donald Trump’s lawsuit – which is seeking “damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be no less than One Hundred Million Dollars” – alleges that Mary Trump’s disclosure of the tax information to the Times amounted to an illegal breach of contract, among other claims, because the disclosure allegedly violated the 2001 settlement agreement among the Trump family.

The Times has planned to fight the lawsuit.

“The Times’s coverage of Donald Trump’s taxes helped inform the public through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest,” the Times said in a statement. “This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”

Donald Trump also sued CNN last month in a southern Florida court, accusing the network of a “campaign of dissuasion in the form of libel and slander” that “escalated in recent months.”

A CNN spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.