Monday, May 2, 2022

Something to Know - 2 May

Time to check in on the punching bag of Trump's legal issues.   In addition to his apparent stupidity of not remembering the name of a high profile candidate that he recently endorsed (he screwed up the name of J.D. Vance by calling him J.P. Mandell), here is an ongoing scorecard of his legal problems:

The status of key investigations involving Donald Trump

Probes of the ex-president's business and political conduct are underway in multiple places

Donald Trump is facing historic legal and legislative scrutiny for a former president, under investigation by U.S. lawmakers, local district attorneys, a state attorney general and the FBI. Authorities are looking into Trump and his family business for a medley of possible wrongdoing, including his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and how he valued his various assets for loan and tax purposes.

Though one probe — by the district attorney in Manhattan — appears to be winding down, others remain active, threatening Trump with criminal or financial penalties, or plain old public embarrassment, as he weighs a 2024 bid to return to the White House. Here's a list of the key investigations and where they stand.

Trump business practices, Manhattan DA's criminal probe
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What is it: The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is investigating Trump's business practices, particularly allegations that he misrepresented the value of his assets to lenders and tax authorities to secure loans and get breaks on his taxes. The probe started in 2019 under then-District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and continued under his successor, Alvin Bragg (D). It is being assisted by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is also leading a parallel, civil inquiry of the Trump Organization and its executives.

Where it stands: Though Bragg insists the investigation is ongoing, it appears to be circling the drain. In February, two prosecutors leading the probe resigned; people familiar with the matter said they were frustrated that Bragg appeared uninterested in pursuing a case. He has since asked Susan Hoffinger, his investigations chief, to oversee the matter, and he said in a statement in April that his office was "exploring evidence not previously explored." But the current grand jury has been inactive and was slated to disband at the end of April.

In July, prosecutors charged longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and the company with conducting a 15-year tax avoidance scheme involving compensation to executives, including apartments, cars and other unreported benefits. That case could be tried later this year. So far, Weisselberg has shown no sign that he will cooperate against Trump.
What's next: Bragg has vowed to keep investigating and to announce publicly whether he will seek charges. He said April 7 that even after the special grand jury disbands, other grand juries hearing a broad range of criminal cases in New York would be available to take action in this probe if needed. Still, while one of the prosecutors who resigned from the investigation said he believes Trump personally committed felonies and should be charged, Bragg — an elected Democrat with seemingly many incentives to make that happen — has so far been hesitant to do so.
Prosecutor who resigned over stalled Trump probe says ex-president committed felonies

Trump business practices, New York AG's civil probe
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What is it: James, the New York attorney general, is investigating whether to bring a civil lawsuit against Trump, his family or the Trump Organization for allegedly manipulating the value of assets to secure better loan rates and tax benefits.

Where it stands: James is moving aggressively, and her probe has produced some consequences for Trump. In April, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron held Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with an order to turn over records to James's office by March 31, and agreed to fine the former president $10,000 a day until he complies. Trump's lawyer has said the former president's team will appeal. Engoron has also ordered Trump and two of his children to sit for depositions, though they have appealed that order, too.
What's at stake: In a civil lawsuit, James could seek financial penalties or other noncriminal remedies. Trump has argued that information he and his children provide in depositions could be used against him in the criminal probe.
Donald Trump held in contempt for failing to provide business records

Trump supporters protest the 2020 presidential election results outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta on Nov. 7, 2020. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post)

Georgia election results investigation
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What is it: Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), an elected prosecutor in the Atlanta area, is investigating efforts to overturn Trump's loss in Georgia's 2020 presidential election. Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's victory. He also called the top Georgia state elections investigator and urged her to identify wrongdoing in the state's vote. Prosecutors are scrutinizing Trump's calls, as well as the circumstances around the sudden resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta, according to an official familiar with the probe.

Where it stands: In January, judges granted Willis a special-purpose grand jury to aid her investigation. Willis said the grand jury, which can continue for up to 12 months, was needed because a "significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony."
What's at stake: Willis is investigating possible violations of Georgia state law, including whether anyone illegally solicited election fraud, made false statements to state and local government officials, made threats or participated in a criminal conspiracy. She is also looking at testimony before the state's General Assembly, which held hearings where Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other Trump allies made unfounded allegations of election fraud.
What's next: The grand jury will be seated starting Monday, according to the Associated Press, and will presumably issue subpoenas and potentially hear testimony from recalcitrant witnesses.
In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor

The Jan. 6 select committee's investigation
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What is it: A House committee is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and what many see as the related campaign by Trump and others to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

Where it stands: The committee is talking to witnesses and examining voluminous text messages and other documents. It has said it will hold public hearings to air some of its findings, probably starting in June, and issue a public report in coming months. The committee also has asked the Justice Department to pursue criminal contempt charges against former Trump aides who have bucked subpoenas.
What's at stake: The committee can't charge Trump with a crime. But it could expose misconduct by the former president and those close to him, and make referrals of possible crimes to the Justice Department.
The Attack: The Washington Post's investigation of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and its aftermath

Criminal probes of Jan. 6
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What is it: The Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 riot and has charged hundreds of people who breached the Capitol that day with trespassing, trying to obstruct the vote certification and attacking police officers. Prosecutors also have alleged intricate conspiracies, including those involving the leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, and recently expanded their examination to include the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot.

What's at stake: The big question for most observers is: Could Trump face charges? Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the riot "at any level," though some critics say his department is not taking sufficient steps to investigate Trump personally — either for inciting the riot or for trying to overturn the election results.
A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to some officials in Trump's orbit, and prosecutors are examining the decision by Republican electors in some states won by Biden to send in signed statements purporting to affirm Trump as the victor. Those electors were aided in their effort by Trump campaign officials and Giuliani.
What's next: Justice Department investigators will keep moving up the ladder, using the testimony of those who choose to cooperate.
The Justice Dept. alleged Jan. 6 was a seditious conspiracy. Now will it investigate Trump?

The Mar-a-Lago boxes investigation
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What is it: The Justice Department is investigating how 15 boxes of White House records — including some highly classified material — made their way to Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Officials with the National Archives and Records Administration asked the Justice Department to investigate after finding materials clearly marked as classified in the boxes, which they had asked Trump to turn over to their agency. The House Oversight Committee is also looking into the matter.

What's at stake: Mishandling classified information is a federal crime that could mean prison time. To substantiate a criminal case, prosecutors would have to prove that Trump or his aides intentionally mishandled the material or were grossly negligent in doing so — a high legal bar. In practice, the department reserves criminal charges for those who deliberately mishandle such files. The FBI may also want to assess how widely the classified information may have been disseminated.
The investigation could have political consequences, even if it doesn't produce legal ones. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who was famously investigated for possibly mishandling classified information because of her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. That case ended with damaging revelations — but no charges — just before she lost the 2016 presidential election.
What's next: The FBI will have to review the classified materials and establish who handled the boxes, what those individuals knew about what was inside them and what their intent was. That will probably mean interviewing people in Trump's orbit.
Some Trump records taken to Mar-a-Lago clearly marked as classified, including documents at 'top secret' level

Westchester, N.Y., golf club
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What is it: Westchester District Attorney Miriam "Mimi" Rocah (D) is investigating property tax records related to one of Trump's golf clubs in suburban New York.

Where it stands: The status of Rocah's investigation is murkier than some of the others. In October, it was reported that her office had subpoenaed property tax records from the town of Ossining, N.Y., which sets property tax rates for the course. The Trump Organization had challenged the property valuation for the club for every year since 2015; that process often involves a company turning over data about a property's financial performance as evidence that it is worth less than its assessed value.
What's at stake: Rocah's probe appears to be similar to Bragg's in that it is focused on the valuation of a Trump property.
What's next: A spokeswoman for Rocah has declined to comment on the matter, and it's unclear what steps investigators have taken or what they might do next.

Only drug dealers, cartel bosses, scam artists, and other criminals trying to hide use burner phones.

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