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Explainer: What legal problems does U.S. presidential candidate Trump face?

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2022-11-16T02:36:57Z

Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for U.S. president in the 2024 U.S. presidential election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Former President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday announced he will run again for the White House in 2024, faces a series of investigations and lawsuits.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump for retaining government records, including some marked as classified, after leaving office in January 2021.

The FBI seized 11,000 documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in a court-approved Aug. 8 search. About 100 documents were marked as classified, and some were designated top secret, the highest level of classification.

Trump, a Republican, has accused the Justice Department of engaging in a partisan witch hunt.

A special master, Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, is reviewing the seized documents to determine whether any are protected by executive privilege, as Trump has claimed.

Executive privilege is a legal doctrine under which a president can keep certain documents or information secret.

The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to end that review and restore its access to unclassified materials taken in the search, arguing that both measures are hindering the criminal investigation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a civil lawsuit filed in September that her office uncovered more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations by Trump and the Trump Organization between 2011 and 2021.

James, a Democrat, accused Trump of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain lower interest rates on loans and get better insurance coverage.

A New York judge ordered that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the Trump Organization before the case goes to trial.

James is seeking to permanently bar Trump and his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump from running companies in New York state, and to prevent them and his company from buying new properties and taking out new loans in the state for five years.

James also wants the defendants to hand over about $250 million that she says was obtained through fraud.

Trump has called the attorney general’s lawsuit a witch hunt. A lawyer for Trump has called James’ claims meritless.

James said her probe also uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing, which she referred to federal prosecutors and the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service for investigation.

The Trump Organization is on trial on New York tax fraud charges, in a criminal case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The company, which operates hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, has pleaded not guilty to three tax fraud charges and six other counts. It could face up to $1.6 million in fines.

Trump is not charged with wrongdoing.

Allen Weisselberg, the company’s former chief financial officer, has pleaded guilty and is required to testify against the Trump Organization as part of his plea agreement. He is also a defendant in James’ civil lawsuit.

E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer, sued Trump for defamation in 2019 after he denied her allegation that he raped her in the 1990s in a New York City department store. Trump accused her of lying to drum up sales for a book.

Trump appeared for a deposition in the case on Oct. 19, according to his and Carroll’s lawyers.

Trump has argued that he is shielded from Carroll’s lawsuit by a federal law that immunizes government employees from defamation claims.

The Manhattan-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September said Trump was a federal employee when he called Carroll a liar, but left open the question of whether he was acting as president when he made the statement.

A Washington, D.C., appeals court will consider that question in oral arguments scheduled for Jan. 10, 2023.

Carroll also plans to sue Trump for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress under New York state law, even if the defamation lawsuit is dismissed.

A House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol is investigating whether he broke the law in actions taken to try to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Rioters sought to block Congress from certifying the election results.

In October, Trump was subpoenaed by the committee to testify under oath and provide documents.

Committee vice chair Liz Cheney, a Republican, has said the committee could make referrals to the Justice Department seeking criminal charges against Trump.

Only the Justice Department can decide whether to charge Trump with federal crimes. The panel is expected to issue written findings in the coming weeks.

Trump has called the panel’s investigation a politically motivated sham.

A special grand jury was empanelled in May for a Georgia prosecutor’s inquiry into Trump’s alleged efforts to influence that state’s 2020 election results.

The investigation focuses in part on a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, on Jan. 2, 2021. Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss in Georgia.

Legal experts said Trump may have violated at least three Georgia criminal election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

Trump could argue that his discussions were constitutionally protected free speech.

In a separate lawsuit, a California federal judge said on Oct. 19 that Trump knowingly made false voter fraud claims in a Georgia election lawsuit, citing emails the judge reviewed.


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