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Explained | The legal troubles of former US President Donald Trump

Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, is unlikely to face trial in any of the remaining cases before squaring off with Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 US election.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 17:05 IST

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The US Supreme Court's decision in February to hear Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity delayed his federal election subversion trial and its ruling on Monday raises fresh questions that may further delay it.

Indeed, the ruling could affect Trump's defense in three criminal cases in which he has argued that he cannot be prosecuted for official acts he took as president, even as the Republican seeks a return to the White House.

The court's decision will not affect the case in New York, where Trump faces sentencing next month after being convicted of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star.

Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, is unlikely to face trial in any of the remaining cases before squaring off with Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 US election.

Here is a look at the major legal cases facing the former US president:

Trial over hush money to porn star

A New York jury on May 30 convicted Trump of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence before the 2016 presidential election about a sexual encounter she said she had with him in 2006.

It could be the only trial Trump faces before the election. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, accused Trump of trying to conceal a violation of election laws by recording his reimbursement to Cohen as monthly legal fees in his real estate company's books.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

Trump, who vowed to appeal the conviction, has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels but acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment. His lawyers have said that the hush money payment could have been intended to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not to benefit his presidential campaign.

Prosecutors argued the altered records covered up election-law and tax-law violations - since the money was essentially an unreported contribution to Trump's campaign - that elevate the crimes from misdemeanors to felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.

Trump has called Cohen a "serial liar" and Cohen's credibility was a key issue during the trial.

Special counsel's election subversion charges

The Supreme Court on Monday found that Trump cannot be prosecuted for official acts as president and ordered the trial judge, Tanya Chutkan, to determine how that immunity applies to allegations that Trump illegally sought to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

The federal case, brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith had been scheduled to go to trial on March 4 but was put on hold until the top court ruled.

On January 6, 2021, Trump's supporters attacked the Capitol — assaulting police and fighting their way into the building — after the then-president gave a speech telling them to march there and "fight like hell" to prevent the election from being "stolen."

They carried out a deadly rampage while US lawmakers were inside meeting to certify Biden's victory. Prosecutors said Trump exploited the attack, spurning advice urging him to quickly send a message directing the rioters to leave.

Trump and others also organized fraudulent slates of electors in seven states, all of which he lost, to be certified as official by Congress in a bid to thwart certification of Biden's victory, the indictment said.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Aug. 3, 2023, to a four-count indictment, which presented examples of Trump's false claims of widespread voting fraud and noted that close advisers had told him the election results were legitimate.

Lower courts ruled that Trump did not have any immunity in the case, but the Supreme Court's conservative majority determined US presidents have some protection from criminal charges for certain acts taken in office.

The case is likely to survive the court's ruling, but a judge will have to determine if certain allegations will need to be tossed out. That analysis is likely to further delay the case.

New York attorney general civil lawsuit

Trump was ordered in February to pay $354.9 million in penalties after a New York state judge, Justice Arthur Engoron, ruled last September that the former president repeatedly committed fraud, overstating his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion a year.

In a civil fraud case, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, had accused Trump and his family real estate business, the Trump Organization, of lying from 2011 to 2021 about his net worth and the value of his properties to obtain better terms from lenders and insurers.

With daily interest that began to accrue in 2019, the payout had grown to $454.2 million with interest by Feb. 22, and additional interest is tacked on each day.

Trump posted a $175 million bond while he appeals the judgment, averting state seizure of his assets to satisfy the verdict.

Georgia election-subversion charges

Trump on August 31, 2023, pleaded not guilty to state criminal charges in Georgia arising from his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss to Biden. A grand jury indicted him after an investigation by the office of Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat.

He was charged with 13 felony counts, accused of pressuring state officials to reverse his election loss in Georgia and setting up a fake slate of electors to undermine the congressional certification of Biden's victory.

Trump and 18 co-defendants were charged under Georgia's broadly written Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that originally targeted the mafia. The judge later dismissed six counts, including three against Trump.

In January, a controversy erupted over a romantic relationship between Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade.

Judge Scott McAfee in March ruled that Willis could remain on the case but said Wade must step down, which he did. In May, an appeals court agreed to hear Trump's bid seeking to disqualify Willis, further delaying the case. The appeals court has paused most activity in the case, including all proceedings against Trump, while it considers the issue.

Other co-defendants in the case include Trump's former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. They have pleaded not guilty.

Four people charged in the case, including former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis, pleaded guilty after striking deals with prosecutors.

No trial date has been set.

Special counsel's classified documents charges

Trump pleaded not guilty on June 13, 2023, and again on Aug. 4, 2023, to charges brought by Smith in federal court in Florida that he unlawfully kept classified national security documents after leaving office in January 2021 and misled officials who sought to recover them.

Trump faces 40 criminal counts in the case. A trial is on indefinite hold after US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, postponed a scheduled May 20 start without setting a new date.

The documents included information about the US nuclear program and potential vulnerabilities in the event of an attack, according to the indictment. Smith accused Trump of risking national secrets by taking sensitive papers with him when he left the White House and storing them haphazardly at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump faces charges that include violations of the Espionage Act, which criminalizes unauthorized possession of defense information, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Trump has argued that he deemed the materials personal property.

Sexual abuse and defamation civil lawsuits

A Manhattan jury on January 26 ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll in her defamation lawsuit against him. Jurors found that Trump harmed Carroll and acted with malice when he defamed her by denying in 2019 that he raped her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

A federal judge in April rejected Trump's bid to throw out the award and his bid for a new trial. Trump is appealing the award.

On May 9, 2023, another jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million over his similar October 2022 denial, finding that he had defamed and sexually abused Carroll. Trump also has appealed that decision.

Trump has denied any encounter with Carroll and accused her of making up her story to sell her memoir.

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Published 01 July 2024, 17:05 IST

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