Former US President Donald Trump could face serious legal challenges as his return to civilian life deprives him of many legal protections following his electoral loss and the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
A standard in US law states that sitting presidents are immune from indictment. The Office of the Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice (OLC) has regulations that prevent federal law enforcement agencies from charging the president.
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that saw Trump elected, referred to the OLC guidelines to justify not indicting Trump for obstructing justice while clarifying the decision did not exonerate the president.
Now, as Trump returns to normal life, the former president faces lawsuits without presidential protection.
Federal accusations and secret self-pardon?
Trump could face federal charges related to financial activities and his tax returns.
Perhaps the most fleshed out case centers on the testimony of former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who in 2018 pleaded guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to a series of crimes, including sending silent money to an adult actress as Trump ran for president paying illegal campaign expenses.
Cohen said he committed these crimes at Trump’s behest, although prosecutors have so far only referred to the person as “individual 1”.
Trump has denied any misconduct.
The former president could also face an indictment related to his very hidden tax returns.
The New York Times obtained and published copies of Trump’s tax records dating back more than 20 years.
Experts say there are indicators of possible tax evasion and other financial crimes. Records show Trump, who is a billionaire, paid $ 750 in federal income tax for 2016 and 2017, which appears to be eerily low for a man of his wealth.
Nick Akerman, a former federal prosecutor, told CNN in September that it “appears that Trump has been carrying out a whole host of activities that could be characterized as tax evasion and not tax evasion. This is a very important distinction “.
Trump has denied the allegations related to his taxes and said he pays millions in taxes.
Even if Trump were to face federal charges, it is possible that he granted pardons for himself and his family members without the public’s knowledge.
Trump granted 70 pardons on his last day in office, to political allies like Steve Bannon and Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy.
It appears that Trump did not issue a self-pardon, which would have tested legal jurisprudence and potentially paved the way for illegal activity with impunity on the part of the US head of state. But some jurists have not excluded it.
I’m not convinced Trump went through forgiving himself (in secret). I guess we’ll find out if he’s charged with federal charges.
– Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) January 20, 2021
Trump could have delivered a self-pardon without alerting the public. The pardon would have been registered but will not be known unless federal charges are laid.
Legal woes of the Empire State
A presidential pardon does not protect individuals from state and city accusations. Maybe Trump could face many.
New York appears to have the most legal landmines for Trump. New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance has conducted a criminal investigation into Trump for more than two years, although the exact nature of the investigation is unknown.
Vance’s team said during court filings, the investigation could look into allegations of tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.
They are currently awaiting a Supreme Court ruling that would guarantee eight years of Trump’s tax returns, although reports indicate Vance is already in possession of certain tax documents from Trump.
State Attorney General Letitia James has opened an investigation into the finances of the Trump organization, resulting from Cohen’s claims that he inflated assets to obtain loans while deflating assets to avoid taxes.
This investigation is civil and would not result in jail time, but fines.
Trump also faces legal action over allegations of sexual misconduct and rape.
E Jean Carroll, a writer, alleges in a libel suit that Trump raped her at a New York department store in the 1990s and then accused her of lying about it to sell books.
These are the shoes I was wearing when Trump attacked me.
They are 27 years old. The label is “Barney’s New York”.
I’m hitting the airwaves today because tomorrow Trump will be gone. pic.twitter.com/7ZM1Rmq4kk
– E. Jean Carroll (@ejeancarroll) January 19, 2021
Trump denied the allegation. During Trump’s tenure, the Justice Department attempted to protect the former president from the case.
He attempted to replace Trump as the defendant in the case and claimed he enjoyed broad immunity since speaking out about Carroll in his role as president.
It seems unlikely that Biden’s Justice Department will continue to protect Trump, although he has yet to file a case in the case.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant of The Apprentice, the reality show Trump hosted for 14 years, also accused Trump of unwanted sexual misconduct, kissing and fumbling.
The case was on hold while Trump was in office, with courts deciding whether to face any allegations during his tenure. Trump had previously claimed immunity as president.
This claim is unlikely to hold true after his return to civilian life.
Trump still faces a Senate trial following his indictment by the House of Representatives for a historic second time a week before his departure.
Trump faces a single charge of inciting the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to send the article to the Senate on Monday, when the trial begins.
“There will be a trial,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday. “It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial.”
Legal questions remain as to whether a former president can be removed from office after leaving office, although nothing is explicitly stated in the US Constitution that prohibits it.
Trump has faced stiff criticism from Democrats and Republicans and has been moved on social media following a speech he gave to supporters ahead of their assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump had long repeated baseless claims that the election was stolen from him by voter fraud. His campaign raised numerous legal challenges to the election results, most of which were quickly dismissed.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed that the trial be postponed, with the Senate upholding Biden’s appointments.
Biden said the Senate can do both.