Jan 6, Mar-a-Lago and a golf course: A look at all the investigations Donald Trump is facing

The former president, his business and allies are under scrutiny for tax fraud allegations, real estate practices and a plot to steal the 2020 election

Alex Woodward,Andrew Feinberg
Friday 31 March 2023 16:48 BST
Donald Trump says Florida Mar-a-Lago estate has been 'raided' by FBI

After years of investigations, blind alleys, dead ends and false starts, prosecutors in New York City have obtained an indictment against former president Donald Trump.

After hearing evidence presented by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, grand jurors voted to indict Mr Trump on charges of falsifying business records stemming from payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from revealing an affair he had with her before the 2016 election.

A source told The Independent that grand jurors voted to indict the ex-president at some point this week, and that indictment is currently under seal. It was only filed with the New York Supreme Court late on Thursday, just before the court clerk’s office wrapped its business for the day.

The twice-impeached ex-president is reportedly facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud, sources told CNN after news of the indictment became public.

Mr Trump’s new status as a criminal defendant comes as he has vowed to continue in his quest to return to the White House by winning next year’s presidential election.

His attorney, Joe Tacopina, told NBC News on Friday that the ex-president would not take a plea deal in the case.

“It’s not going to happen. There’s no crime. I don’t know if it’s going to make the trial because we have substantial legal challenges that we have to front before we get to that point,” he said.

But Mr Trump may soon have more to worry about than the case against him in the city he once called home because the Manhattan DA’s office is not the only set of law enforcement officials pursuing investigations into his conduct.

Mr Trump is under several congressional, civil and criminal investigations, which range from his business interests and allegations of tax fraud to his efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election and fuel violence at the US Capitol.

The former president, his family business, real estate interests, and political allies are under scrutiny from federal investigators, state attorneys, and members of Congress.

Here is a partial list of the key probes involving Mr Trump and where they currently stand, now that the former president has formally announced his 2024 White House bid.

Mar-a-Lago and White House records

Federal law enforcement officers performed a court-authorised search of the former president’s Florida resort compound on 8 August, which appeared to be focused on documents that Mr Trump brought with him after leaving the White House.

According to a copy of the warrant and inventory of documents recovered from the property, federal agents were directed to seize “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation” of three criminal laws: the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to remove information related to national defence “from its proper place of custody”, as well criminal laws related to obstruction of justice and removing government records.

On 6 August, Mr Trump said in a statement through his Save America political action committee and on his Truth Social platform that his “beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents” and accused the Justice Department of launching a political attack against him.

“They even broke into my safe!” he said.

In September, Trump-appointed federal court judge Aileen Cannon appointed a so-called special master to review the records, approving a move requested by the former president’s lawyers.

She also temporarily blocked the US Department of Justice from reviewing or using the seized material for investigative purposes until the review was complete or under instruction from a court order. The Justice Department appealed, and a three-judge panel determined that it was in the public interest for the Justice Department “to determine whether any of the records were improperly disclosed, risking national security damage.” The US Supreme Court subsequently denied Mr Trump’s appeal of that order.

In early December, an appeals court ended the special master process. Mr Trump failed to appeal the decision.

The former president has claimed without evidence that he had the authority to personally declassify sensitive materials. His legal team, however, has stopped short of actually saying whether he did.

On 21 March, 2023, ABC News reported that prosecutors from the special counsel’s office had come to believe that Mr Trump had deliberately misled his own attorneys over the missing papers.

House select committee’s investigation into January 6

A select committee formed by a vote in the House of Representatives is tasked with investigating the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021, fuelled by Mr Trump’s baseless narrative that the outcome was “stolen” from him, driving a mob of his supporters into the halls of Congress as lawmakers convened to certify the results.

Preliminary public hearings began in July 2021 and continued with live televised public hearings over the following year, including primetime witness testimony and public reviews of evidence related to conspiracy theories promoted by Mr Trump and his allies.

The hearings also demonstrated attempts by Mr Trump and his allies to pressure then-Vice President Pence and election officials in other states, and what White House staff knew in the days leading up to 6 January, as well as Mr Trump’s actions and inaction during the attack.

During its final televised hearing, the panel voted to subpoena Mr Trump, demanding that he appear at the Capitol or by videoconference by mid-November.

Not only did he blow that deadline, he sued to avoid appearing before the committee.

On 19 December, the House Select Committee held its final meeting, where it made criminal referrals to the DOJ.

In the meeting, the panel voted on whether to recommend that the DOJ investigates and brings criminal charges against certain individuals for their involvement in the Capitol riot.

The committee recommended Donald Trump face at least three charges: the crime of insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Justice Department’s criminal probe into January 6

As part of a broader probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating the former president’s pressure campaign against Mr Pence to reject the Electoral College certification and whether Mr Trump instructed his lawyers and advisers about the so-called alternate elector scheme.

In recent weeks, investigators have ramped up the probe, including grand jury testimony from two former aides to Mr Pence and a subpoena issued to lawyer John Eastman, a central figure among Mr Trump’s legal effort to advance the fringe theory that Republican-controlled state legislatures could appoint “alternate” slates to secure Mr Trump’s victory.

The investigation is separate from the House committee’s probe as well as the FBI’s search on 8 August.

Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland, has issued subpoenas to election officials in four states where the former president’s legal team sought to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election.

The Justice Department is now looking to question Mr Pence as part of the criminal probe.

Congressional probe into finances

The House Ways and Means Committee has spent years trying to obtain Mr Trump’s tax filings and financial records to substantiate longstanding allegations of fraud. On 9 August, the morning after federal agents descended on Mar-a-Lago, the committee announced that a federal appeals court decision means committee members will “immediately” gain access to the documents.

A unanimous three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with the committee’s Democratic majority on 9 August, allowing them access to five years’ worth of federal income tax returns from the former president and his businesses.

“While it is possible that Congress may attempt to threaten the sitting president with an invasive request after leaving office, every president takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office,” Senior Circuit Judge David Sentelle wrote in the 33-page filing. “This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug.”

The US Supreme Court temporarily blocked the release of Mr Trump’s tax records earlier this year.

But, then, in November, the conservative-heavy court rejected Mr Trump’s request to shield the committee from obtaining his returns.

The House committee is now expected to convene on Tuesday (20 December) to discuss the former president’s tax returns just days before the current Congress ends and Republicans take control of the lower chamber.

Mr Trump has never before publicly released his tax returns, despite pledging to do so during his initial campaign, and has fought a protracted legal battle against lawmakers seeking those documents following allegations raised by his former attorney Michael Cohen during congressional testimony in 2019.

Mr Cohen testified that his former boss would inflate his assets to boost his personal and business profile then illegally deflate his reported assets to evade real estate taxes. Mr Trump has denied those claims.

The Georgia election

Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating attempts to overturn Mr Trump’s election loss in the state, after he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,000 votes to reverse the outcome.

A 23-person special grand jury was impaneled in May and has subpoenaed several key players among the former president’s legal team and advisers, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, among others.

Ms Willis also has informed the 16 Republican “alternate” electors in the state that they could face criminal charges for pledging to falsely certify Mr Trump’s election and announcing themselves as Georgia’s “duly elected and qualified” electors despite Joe Biden’s victory.

As of 18 December, sources told CNN that the special grand jury has largely finished hearing testimony from witnesses and has started writing the final report.

This means that prosecutors will likely get their recommendations from the grand jury soon and then decide whether or not to bring criminal charges.

New York probes into Trump’s business and real estate

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the former president, his three eldest adult children and a host of companies, organisations and associates tied to his eponymous real estate and licensing business following a three-year civil investigation into allegations of fraud.

Across more than 200 pages, following interviews with 65 witnesses and reviews of millions of documents, the state attorney general alleges that the former president and his business empire falsely inflated the value of his net worth by billions of dollars in an effort to gain tax benefits and other benefits from insurers and financial institutions.

The lawsuit seeks to recover $250m in lost revenue and penalties, as well as a judge’s order that would permanently bar the Trumps from holding any offices with businesses in the state.

A judge overseeing the lawsuit barred the former president and his company from transferring assets without notifying the court and the attorney general’s office, after it was revealed that the Trump Organization registered a new entity with the New York Secretary of State – titled “Trump Organization II LLC” – the same day as the lawsuit.

Ms James suggested that the company was registered to “evade” liability.

New York County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron also granted Ms James’s request for an independent monitor to oversee compliance with his order, which the judge said was issued “to ensure that defendants do not dissipate their assets or transfer them out of this jurisdiction”.

A trial date has now been set for October 2023.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also has been investigating Mr Trump’s business practices and assets since 2019.

That criminal probe, launched under former District Attorney Cyrus Vance, remains open under current attorney Alvin Bragg, though two of the leading prosecutors resigned in 2022.

In 2021, based on evidence from the attorney general’s probe, Manhattan prosecutors charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg with tax fraud, alleging that Mr Weisselberg collected more than $1.7m off the books.

On 18 August, he pleaded guilty to 15 tax violations. He also will be required to give evidence at trial for companies that were also indicted for fraud.

Mr Weisselberg and Eric Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by state attorneys, according to documents.

On 6 December, the Trump Organization was found guilty of all charges, stemming from what prosecutors have described as a decades-long scheme to avoid paying payroll taxes by compensating top executives with untaxed benefits.

Trump’s New York golf club

Separate from the probes underway in Manhattan and with the state attorney general, the Trump National Golf Club Westchester, roughly 30 miles outside of the city, is facing an investigation from Westchester District Attorney Miriam “Mimi” Rocah.

It is unclear what progress has been made in the probe; news of Ms Rocah’s investigation and subpoenas for property tax records were first reported in October 2021.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization at the time claimed that a review of tax assessments “was amicably resolved” earlier that year, and “the suggestion that anything was inappropriate is completely false and incredibly irresponsible. The witch hunt continues.”

This story was published on 9 August and has been updated with developments as they occur

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