Friday, March 19, 2021

''He's sued'' - Trump's legal problems

Washington Post investigators report that Trump faces an onslaught of legal problems, as investigations and dozens of lawsuits trail him from Washington to Florida. Following are excerpts.

The district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of his tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer — even one of his sons.

And that’s just in New York. Former president Donald Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And Trump must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits: 29 are pending at last count, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building.

No charges have been filed against Trump in any of these investigations. The outcome of these lawsuits is uncertain. Trump has raised more than $31 million for his post-presidential political action committee, which he could tap to pay legal fees.

But the sheer volume of these legal problems indicates that — after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House — Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.

He has lost the formal immunities of the presidency and the legal firepower of the Justice Department, but he is also without some of the informal shields that protected him even before he was president: his reputation for endless wealth and his clout as a political donor in New York.

Now, prosecutors roam free in his financial records. New lawsuits keep arriving. Some of his key lawyers have quit. A man who once used the law to swamp his enemies, overwhelming them with claims and legal bills, is finding himself on the other side of the wave, unable to control what comes next.

Until recently, “at his level, there was no such thing as being in ‘legal trouble,’ in the way that ordinary people think about it,” said Michael D’Antonio, who wrote a 2015 biography of Trump. He said Trump usually had something he could hold over the head of his opponents: withholding donations, bad press or a messy countersuit.

Today, D’Antonio said, in the urban and liberal jurisdictions where Trump is facing the most peril, “nobody needs him now.”

“What does he have to offer anybody? And in fact there’s every incentive to crush him,” D’Antonio said.

The Washington Post identified at least six ongoing investigations that could involve Donald Trump, as well as the 29 lawsuits in which he or one of his companies is named as a defendant.

Of the investigations, the oldest and broadest appear to be two in New York: a criminal probe begun by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) in 2018, and a separate civil inquiry begun by state Attorney General Letitia James (D) in 2019.

Trump has faced official inquiries in New York before: A previous attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), sued him for defrauding customers of Trump University, winning a $25 million settlement. In 2018, Schneiderman sued him again, for misusing money entrusted to a charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The charity case ended with Trump paying a $2 million penalty.

But if those inquiries each targeted a single aspect of Trump’s life, the current probes take a wide-ranging look at his financial decisions in the years before he ran for president.

Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, has indicated interest in the same issues in New York and Chicago — and requested records from Trump properties as far away as Miami. He also has sought information about Weisselberg, with the goal of “flipping” him into a witness against Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The person, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal proceedings.

Now, Vance has a tool no investigator has ever had before: the former president’s tax returns, which also contain voluminous information about his businesses.

One of the most unusual legal sagas involving Trump has to do with a group of former and current tenants in Trump buildings, who allege that Trump and his late father illegally raised their rents by using phony invoices to inflate their maintenance costs. Their case is based on a scheme revealed in 2018 by the New York Times.

In that case, plaintiff’s attorney Jerrold Parker said, they got stuck at the first step: To sue Trump, first they had to serve him.

When Trump was still in office, they tried to serve the lawsuit papers to him at the White House. The Secret Service didn’t want to take them. But process servers used a trick perfected on New York doormen: hand over the papers and flee.

"Our process server said, ‘Here it is. I’m out of here. Goodbye!’ ” Parker said.

So far, the former president has not responded. Parker said that doesn’t matter. “He’s sued,” Parker said, whether Trump accepts it or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment