Trump is facing consequences for breaking the law in multiple ways. Many of his legal problems are coming to a head.
Trump currently faces 3 active civil cases and 4 active criminal cases.
The civil cases are
- NY Trump Org fraud suit brought by NY’s AG Letitia James being heard now by J Engoron. This week it is entering the defense phase where Trump’s lawyers are calling back Trump’s sons and others to testify.
- The E. Jean Carroll civil defamation suit in NY. Trump was already found to have defamed her and was ordered to pay 5 million in damages. And then after that Trump defamed her again! This trial is the 2nd defamation suit. Jan 15, 2024, is the trial date.
- A pyramid scheme class action civil lawsuit for cheating his supporters. Trial date Jan 29, 2024.
The criminal cases are
- The NY AG hush money Stormy Daniels lawsuit prosecuted by Alvin Bragg in NY set for trial March 25, 2024 but Bragg is willing to move that date to accommodate other more consequential trials coming up before the presidential election.
- The Florida Classified documents case brought by Jack Smith before Judge Aileen Cannon. Set for May 20, 2024.
- The DC Coup Plot to stay in power after losing the 2020 election brought by Jack Smith, Special Counsel of the DOJ. Set for trial March 4, 2024.
- And the Georgia RICO conspiracy case brought by States Atty, Fani Willis for Trump’s conduct along with other co-conspirators, to interfere with the 2020 election in the state of Georgia. No trial date yet because of the recent guilty pleas at the last minute from codefendants Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesbro and Jenna Ellis.
Another legal front is the disqualification clause of the Constitution–Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which might keep Trump off the ballot in every state depending on how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution: specifically, is a president an “officer of the United States”?
TRUMP’S CIVIL FRAUD CASE IN NEW YORK
The judge in this NY trial is J Engoron.
Letitia James is the Attorney General of NY. She alleges a pattern of fraud by Trump and his sons and others at the Trump Organization.
This case was first set in motion by Trump’s former lawyer fixer Michael Cohen, who testified before Congress that Trump and others In Trump Org were lying about the valuation of his properties- claiming they were worth more or less depending on the monetary benefit he could gain.
Trump, his sons and others repeatedly and grossly misrepresented the value and size of Trump’s properties to financial entities to get favorable loan terms. One of the properties was Trump’s residence in NY Trump Tower.
It strains credulity that Trump and his sons did not know the square footage of their Trump Tower residence which they reported to be 3 times the actual size of his residence.
It is OK to lie to the public about how big your assets are but when you lie to a bank or the IRS that can be fraudulent misrepresentation. As here, when there is an egregious pattern of fraud, you risk losing your properties to pay for those lies to a financial entity.
Trump got away with this pattern of fraud for many years.
Letitia James seeks 250 million in fines from Trump Org.
Solely based on the documents AG James submitted to the court, J Engoron has already held as a matter of law that there was a pattern of extensive fraud by the Trump Organization.
Since this is not a criminal trial, the punishment will not be jail. This judge has suspended the business certificates of the company. Without them Trump Org cannot do business in NY. Of course, that decision will be appealed. It could be 2 years before this case is fully adjudicated. But the judge’s decision will very likely stand up on appeal.
J Engoron has already assigned independent monitors to oversee the sale of Trump properties.
In the most recent testimony where Trump and his 3 children took the stand, Trump’s sons claimed they didn’t have anything to do with the valuations and tried to blame the accountants. Ivanka pretended she couldn’t remember anything. The Trump children all have credibility issues. Remember that here the judge is the trier of fact and if a judge says the witness testimony he heard was not credible that is rarely ever overturned on appeal.
When Trump testified under oath, he helped the AG’s case. His testimony established that he did review financial documents Trump Org submitted with inaccurate information. And he admitted those inaccurate submissions were an attempt to get better rates and favorable loan terms. The AG scored a big win with Trump’s testimony.
For Trump, this case should be the end of the myth that Trump was a brilliant businessman. He has worked hard to push that false narrative. He will probably lose control of his iconic Trump Tower and many other well-known properties.
This case will be decided solely by Judge Engoron, not a jury. And Trump has been doing a lot to antagonize this judge. Trump rails at the judge and goes on and on about how much more his properties are worth because of the value of his name, his brand.
When Trump gets in front of a camera, or on his Truth-less social media platform he not only lays into the judge but also the female clerk who sits near the judge.
Trump claimed that this clerk is Chuck Shumer’s girlfriend because there is a photo of this clerk with Schumer that was picked up on social media.
My guess is that this clerk went to a Democratic fundraiser and when you do that you can sometimes get a photo of yourself with political figures who attend. Saying she is Chuck Shumer’s girlfriend is ridiculous, but this is just the kind of thing that animates his MAGA base and strikes fear in the hearts of people who are targeted by that base. Many get personal death threats from MAGAs once they are targeted by Trump.
Even after J Engoron issued a limited gag order specifically instructing Trump NOT to target his clerk, Trump kept it up.
J Engoron fined Trump $5,000 at first and then when Trump kept violating the order, the judge fined him another $10,000. Even then Trump continued to make pejorative comments about the judge’s clerk. Most recently, Trump complained that the clerk handed the judge notes.
Trump is trying to make something that is a totally normal activity in a courtroom seem like it’s part of a nefarious plot. Trump is clearly annoying this judge.
Why is Trump doing this? Defendants usually try to get on the judge’s good side.
Trump gets some benefits from goading the judge:
- Politically Trump gets greater MAGA support when the judge reams him out. To the MAGA base Trump is the strongman who won’t follow the rules set by others.
- Trump claims that the judge is out to get him. It’s political.
- His base believes he is being unfairly attacked to keep him from becoming president again.
- If Trump can get the judge to lash out at him then his attorneys can also claim that the judge is biased, and the court’s findings should be overturned on appeal. (BTW that argument is not likely to work on appeal.)
- Trump is also riling up his base so they will send him money. He uses his base as a piggy bank.
- He also uses his followers the way Hitler used his brown shirts. They are his action arm, his street people. He is trying to scare people who might turn out to be jurors in upcoming cases, or witnesses against him.
Will this trial affect Trump’s ability to win re-election?
Trump gained a following in America by being on The Apprentice. Millions of people thought and still think he is a business genius. It helped him get elected in 2016.
The truth, which was widely known in NY years before The Apprentice, was that Trump was a successful con man and marketer but not a great businessman. He squandered the millions he got from his father by investing in casinos in New Jersey that went bankrupt.
Eventually Trump relied on his last name as a trademark and brand for properties that wanted to portray themselves as glitzy and successful. The use of his brand became his way to make money. Trump= success.
When Trump loses this civil fraud trial, independents and some Republicans might finally realize that Trump is not a success after all. He is not only a failure at business, he lies about it, and he is a cheater.
Of course, most of us who watch reality-based news already knew this about Trump’s psychopathology.
People who played golf with Trump already knew Trump cheats. Because Trump would cheat at golf, even going so far as to move someone’s ball to get an advantage for himself. (Read the book Commander-in-Cheat by Rick Reilly to learn more about how Trump cheats at golf).
The general public, however, does not think a lot about politics or is sick and tired of it. They also lump ALL politicians together, believing everyone is corrupt.
That viewpoint has been encouraged particularly by conservative Republicans who want all of us to feel hopeless and stay home instead of voting.
In short, when Trump loses this case it might affect some voter’s views of him, but I don’t think it will tank Trump’s chances to win re-election.
Most people’s ideas about Trump are baked in the cake by now. Trump supporters will believe Trump when he says this judge was out to get him.
What I think would change more minds could be a criminal conviction by 12 regular Americans.
TRUMP’S CRIMINAL CASE BEFORE JUDGE CHUTKAN IN DC
This is the case being brought by Jack Smith as Special Counsel and in my opinion, it is the only criminal case likely to be tried to completion before the election of 2024. Much of the evidence will both repeat and expand on what we heard from the January 6th Select Committee in the House. I think Trump will be found guilty and convicted given the strength of the evidence, the trial team, and the fact that Jack Smith did not overcharge. He only charged what he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Smith charged only Trump but there are unindicted co-conspirators who could be charged in the future or might decide to testify for the prosecution to avoid incarceration. They include Rudy Guiliani, John Eastman, and others who tried to keep Trump in power after he lost the election.
The reason Smith charged only Trump was that he built this case for speed. He knows that the more co-conspirators are charged, the more delay could result.
Smith is determined to get to a conviction in this case before the presidential election of 2024 so that the voters know who they will be voting for and to curtail Trump’s attacks on potential witnesses and jurors.
This is assuming Trump is the GOP nominee. And it sure looks like Trump will be the Republican nominee. He is running 44 pts ahead of his closest rivals.
Trump is antagonizing THIS judge too: J Tanya Chutkan. Like Judge Engoron, J Chutkan has issued a narrow gag order to limit the damage that comes from his incessant attacks and intimidation.
Being out on bond in a criminal case requires that the defendant behave himself and not violate any more laws. Bond is like a reprieve from jail but only if you follow the rules. Anyone else behaving the way Trump has been behaving would have been in jail long ago for violating both of these gag orders.
If Trump keeps up his attacks on social media and refuses to obey the gag order when he is before the cameras outside the courtroom, J Chutkan could decide that Trump should spend a few days in the slammer.
Of course that would really rile up the MAGA base and Trump would attack the judge for violating his first amendment rights and interfering with an election. This situation makes it hard for the judge to put him in jail for violating her order.
Fortunately, Judge Chutkan has a more effective way to punish Trump for misbehaving. She can move the trial date up sooner. This is exactly what Trump doesn’t want. She is fully within her rights to move up the trial date. She would not be overturned on appeal if she made that decision.
J Chutkan has already started the jury selection process. Potential jurors are already filling out lengthy forms.
The judge is also requiring, as per a motion made by Jack Smith’s trial team, that Trump’s attorneys spell out whether their defense will include a reliance on advice of counsel defense. That is probably Trump’s best defense.
But if that’s the defense, discovery rules require that Trump’s attorneys turn over a lot of otherwise protected materials including any notes written by Trump’s attorneys that he claims to have relied on. The government has a right to these materials to prepare for trial.
This early flurry of activity might indicate that J Chutkan wants to be ready to move the trial date up from March to a sooner date if Trump continues to defy her gag order.
So, let’s jump ahead. What will happen if 12 American citizens decide Trump is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for trying to overturn the 2020 election and stay in power beyond his 4-year term?
In the recent Siena poll that terrified Democrats about Trump beating Biden in key battleground states, that same poll showed Trump losing to Biden by about 5 to 8 pts. in the same battleground states if he is convicted of a crime.
What would be different is that 12 regular Americans would find him guilty instead of a judge that Trump has painted as a political adversary.
Trump’s MAGA base helps him beat everyone in the GOP primaries, but the general election is a different animal.
Trump narrowly lost to Biden in 2020. Being convicted of crimes related to January 6th will not earn him more votes from the all-important suburban moms who were the key swing voters in 2020.
As his criminal cases get going, Trump will also become more and more unhinged and will lash out even more. He is already getting crazier and saying very disturbing things. He sounds more and more like Hitler. He uses words like “vermin” to describe his political enemies. That is how he intends to normalize the idea of encouraging violence against these people he hates. It will get worse as he decompensates. He will terrify a lot of Americans into voting to keep him out of the White House, even while he excites his base with his outrage and disobedience.
GEORGIA’S RICO CONSPIRACY CASE
Unlike Jack Smith who indicted Trump as the sole defendant in his case, Fani Willis decided to charge the Georgia case as a RICO conspiracy with close to 20 defendant co-conspirators. She is very comfortable with RICO cases.
This format will allow her to present a wide-ranging expose of the extensive efforts Trump and his team went to to overturn the 2020 election.
Her case is going well so far. Three of the key attorney defendants have pleaded guilty: Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesbro, and Jenna Ellis.
Why does this matter? Because these attorneys will counter Trump’s defense that he relied on advice of counsel. They will testify that many people told him the truth that he had lost but that he refused to listen to them and insisted they help him overturn the election.
John Eastman and Rudy Guiliani are the only two lawyers left who have not yet pleaded guilty. But they might decide to do that given the stakes here. No one wants to go to prison in Georgia. It is a hell hole.
Jenna Ellis could turn out to be a very important witness in the GA case. She was in the room with Trump, Guiliani and John Eastman much of the time- observing and listening. She will be able to provide firsthand testimony about what she saw and heard. For example, she very likely heard Trump say something like:
“How did I get beaten by that loser Joe Biden?” (Good evidence Trump knew he lost the election.)
Another important point about the Georgia case is that it will be televised where the case in DC may not be televised. Federal trials are not televised.
To me it seems that the American people would learn a lot if they watched the unfolding of factual evidence in a courtroom instead of relying on Fox News to give them their usual alternate version of reality.
On the other hand, Trump and his team would turn the trial into a circus. Trump would be playing to his base, and he’d be totally outrageous with the cameras rolling.
One compromise idea would be to allow audio of the DC trial in real time. Not video. Just audio.
When it comes to the Georgia case, however, it will not be tried before the 2024 election because the federal case in DC will take precedence.
FLORIDA DOCUMENTS CASE
Trump’s best defense is to delay delay delay. To this end- of wanting to delay delay delay, Trump has an ally in Judge Aileen Cannon. From the beginning of this case, Cannon, a Trump appointee, has shown favoritism towards him and his attorneys.
The documents case is cut and dry. It should be relatively easy to prove.
The documents had no business being at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort—in the bathroom, the basement, lying around in his office and the ballroom.
What a shocking level of disregard for the security of these documents that were supposed to be sent to the Archives and that by law belong to the American people, not Trump.
Instead, there are photos of them spilling out of their boxes on the floor somewhere in Trump’s golf resort and piled up next to his toilet in the bathroom.
And then, there’s the issue of who did he show them to? There will be evidence that he showed some of them off to people at his golf resorts. He compromised the security of our country. Remember when he excoriated Hillary Clinton for her emails? There was nothing there. Trump’s violation is real and the damage is extensive. Who will trust our country to keep it secret if they become a confidential informant after this? That alone weakens our country.
The Archives asked for these boxes to be sent to them. Nicely at first. Trump pretended to comply. But when there was a search they found more documents that had not been turned over. There will be evidence that Trump knowingly moved the boxes after he pretended to comply. Strong evidence that he obstructed justice.
Motive is not an issue in a case like this, but it would be helpful for a jury to understand what his motive was. Why did he refuse to return these documents? Did he hold onto them because it made him feel more important after losing the election to Biden? Did he sell access to some of them to make money?
Given that Judge Cannon has shown a strong interest in pleasing Trump, this case it is not likely to go to trial before the 2024 election.
TRUMP’S GAG ORDER ON APPEAL
A three judge appeals court is hearing arguments from both sides about whether and how to hold Trump accountable for speaking out about the prosecutors, the judges, potential witnesses and saying things that would scare potential jurors. The courts are wrestling with this case of first impression- a former president running to be president again while under indictment for the serious crime of trying to stay in power in defiance of our Constitution and the laws of our country after losing an election. Trump is using social media and other platforms to mis and dis inform the public as well as using vaguely threatening language which can taint the jury pool and scare witnesses. Trump’s first amendment rights will need to be weighed against his need to keep himself from tainting the jury pool and terrifying witnesses.