The Justice Department’s investigation into whether former President Donald Trump illegally held on to secret materials after leaving office is developing slowly, with a judge this week granting Trump’s request for an outside expert to review documents seized.
And while it might be the most high-profile investigation into the former president’s alleged wrongdoings, there are multiple other probes into the Republican that are drawing less notice – but still carry significant risks for Trump and his onetime aides.
What You Need To Know
- Outside of the Justice Department’s investigation into documents seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago, there are multiple other probes into the former president that are drawing less notice – but still carry significant risks for Trump and his onetime aides
- In Georgia, Atlanta’s district attorney convened a grand jury to examine “the facts and circumstances relating […] to possible attempts to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 elections in the State of Georgia”
- New York State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation into whether the former president and the Trump Organization fraudulently misrepresented the value of properties
- James is also assisting the Manhattan district attorney in a separate criminal probe into Trump family businesses
In at least three places, the former president faces criminal and civil investigations.
In Washington, the Justice Department is looking at both the documents Trump took to Florida, and what happened as he tried to stay in power despite losing the presidential race.
In Georgia, Atlanta’s district attorney is also eyeing efforts to subvert the election.
And then in Trump’s hometown, there are probes from the New York State Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney, plus two lawsuits in New York City.
“This is a very dangerous situation for the former administration – a number of the officials,” Ron Carlson, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, told Spectrum News.
Perhaps nowhere more than in Georgia, largely because of one phone call featuring Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state.
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” Trump infamously said to Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger in a Jan. 2, 2021 phone call, seeking to pressure the state official to overturn the election in his favor. Raffensperger refused.
Now, a special grand jury is looking into Trump’s attempts to block Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State.
The investigation first began last January, when Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis asked to convene the grand jury to examine “the facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to possible attempts to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 elections in the State of Georgia.”
Part of the probe concerns an alleged scheme from members of the Trump campaign to swap out the states’ actual electors with a slate of fake, pro-Trump electors, despite the fact that Joe Biden won the Georgia election. Willis in July informed all 16 of those fraudulent electors that they were potential targets of the investigation.
The grand jury is seeking, or already received, high-profile testimony, including from Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp, who certified Trump’s loss.
Other former or current Trump allies have been notified they might also be subject to the sweeping investigation being conducted by Willis, including former Trump attorneys Rudolph Giuliani, John Eastman and Sidney Powell, as well as Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Giuliani was informed in mid-August that he was a target of the investigation. Just this week, Willis filed petitions seeking testimony from Meadows, Powell and several other former Trump allies.
“Grand jury proceedings are secret,” Carlson told Spectrum News. “But I believe they’ll be looking at the following things: a criminal conspiracy, violation of oath of office, false statements to government officials, and finally, a violation of electoral fraud acts.”
“So no question, these are felonies and they’re very, very serious legal matters,” he added.
State Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation into whether the former president and the Trump Organization fraudulently misrepresented the value of properties like hotels and golf courses.
“Based on what we know publicly about Donald Trump’s tendency to inflate on paper the value of his assets, to make them look good for purposes, for example, of getting approved for bank loans and so on, as compared to his tendency to deflate the value of the assets when he wants them to look smaller for the purpose of taxes […] it strikes me as at being a very strong case,” Jennifer Taub, a professor at the Western New England School of Law, said to Spectrum News.
During a deposition by James’ office last month, Trump declined to answer questions – taking the fifth amendment hundreds of times.
James now either must seek a settlement or sue the former president. A lawsuit could seek financial penalties and may include another request.
“I think she’ll also seek an order to dissolve, at the very least, the Trump Organization, which is incorporated under New York law,” Taub said.
James is also assisting the Manhattan district attorney in a separate criminal probe into Trump family businesses. That investigation made headlines recently after the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, including tax fraud and larceny.
Weisselberg was accused by federal authorities, in part, of failing to pay taxes on nearly $2 million from the Trump Organization. As part of his plea agreement, Weisselberg must testify at the upcoming trial against the company, which is slated to begin in October.
Ron Fischetti, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told the Associated Press that prosecutors are likely interested in the legality of the “fringe benefits” given to company executives like Weisselberg.
Trump, who has not been charged with any crime in connection to the case, has denied wrongdoing, instead accusing political enemies of witch hunts.
“The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical left scoundrels, lawyers and the media who tell them what to do – you people right there – and when to do it,” Trump said, pointing to the assembled media at a Sept. 3 campaign event for Republican candidates in Pennsylvania.
Washington, D.C. and Florida
It is likely the most high-profile of the ongoing investigations into the former president: The Department of Justice is looking into the legality of Trump taking documents from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.
Federal agents in August conducted a search of the estate wherein they discovered over 11,000 official documents – about 100 of which contained classification markings. Another 15 boxes containing classified materials were recovered by the National Archives in January.
The latest back-and-forth in the case concerns the Trump team’s request for a special master, an independent third party who would review the thousands of documents for issues of attorney-client and executive privilege.
A federal judge gave the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers until Friday to propose candidates for the special master, though the agency on Thursday filed a motion to appeal the ruling appointing a special master altogether.
Separately, there is the House Select Committee’s investigation into Trump’s attempts to stay in power despite losing the presidential election and the subsequent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The committee’s last hearing was this summer, and members said there would be more in September – though as of Friday, the committee has not decided how many more hearings to hold nor when they will happen.
“I don’t think we know for sure yet,” panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told TIME in an interview on Friday of potential upcoming hearings. “My guess would be that it’s in the neighborhood of two or three.”
Lawmakers also originally said the committee would release a preliminary report on the year-plus investigation in September, though it is unclear when or if that might still occur.
Though the committee cannot levy charges, it can recommend them to the Justice Department.