A breakdown of Trump’s legal battles

Donald Trump doing a ‘zipped-lip’ motion as he leaves the courtroom during a break in the proceedings at the New York Supreme Court on November 6, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP.

By Briana Leibowicz Turchiaro

Boston University News Service

Former President Donald Trump marked history by being the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. The Republican nominee is currently facing 88 criminal charges in four different cases. 

Here is what you need to know about Trump’s legal battles.

New York State – Civil Fraud Case 

The civil fraud case has been brought against Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The allegations suggest that Trump inflated the value of his assets, including his home in the Trump Tower, to secure more favorable terms from banks and insurance agencies.

Because this is a civil case, Trump is not facing any criminal charges. This lawsuit accuses Trump of using financial statements to secure business deals and loans. 

The lawsuit has already been trialed, and the closing arguments were held on Jan. 11, 2024. During these arguments, Trump claimed Judge Arthur Engoron was biased and that all the charges were untrue. 

On Feb. 16, 2024, Engoron ruled Trump liable for fraudulent financial statements and ordered him and his co-defendants to pay $364 million in penalties. The decision also barres Trump from running a business in New York for the next three years, with some restrictions. 

Since the verdict, the $364 million in penalties have escalated to around $454 million. It will continue to grow with a daily interest rate.

Trump’s attorneys requested the court of appeals to stop New York’s collection of the half billion dollars; claiming that they were having “insurmountable difficulties” raising the money. 

On March 25, 2024, the Court of Appeals agreed to a bond of $175 million which means James cannot begin collecting the judgment. 

Trump’s team has appealed the verdict. The case, including the penalties, is on hold until the case has been revised again. 

Manhattan – Defamation and Sexual Assault

In this criminal case, Trump faces both a defamation and sexual assault lawsuit from E. Jean Caroll. 

Caroll claims she encountered Trump in 1986 at the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. In the store, Caroll claims Trump recognized her from her column in Elle, “Ask E. Jean.” 

During their encounter, Trump allegedly asked Caroll for help buying a present for a girl. Caroll alleges that the two ended up in a dressing room where Trump sexually assaulted her. 

After the event, Caroll allegedly confided in two friends: Lisa Birnbach, an author, and Carol Martin, a news anchor at New York City’s CBS station. 

In June 2019, New York Magazine published a section of Caroll’s forthcoming book called “What do we need men for?” This section read “Hideous Men: Donald Trump assaulted me in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago.”

A few hours after the section was published, the White House released a statement in which Trump denied Caroll’s allegations, claiming Trump had never met Caroll. 

In November 2019, Caroll sued Trump for defamation. Caroll argued that Trump damaged her reputation as a journalist. At this moment, Caroll could not sue for the alleged sexual assault because the statute of limitations had already passed. 

In September 2020, the Justice Department substituted Trump as the defendant under the Westfall Act. This claimed that the statements being questioned by Trump were under his jurisdiction as president. 

In November 2022, New York became one of several states to enact legislation allowing victims of sexual misconduct to have a one-year “lookback window.” This legislation allowed victims to raise claims that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations. 

In light of the new legislation, Caroll sued Trump a second time. This time, Caroll accused Trump of rape. In May 2023, a jury found Trump guilty and ordered him to pay $5 million in damages. 

After Caroll’s claims were confirmed by a jury, the defamation lawsuit was resumed. On Jan. 26, 2024, a judge found Trump liable for Caroll’s defamation and ordered him to pay $83.3 million in damages to Carroll. 

Manhattan – ‘Hush’ Money 

In another criminal trial, District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of falsifying records for ‘hush’ money payments to cover up an alleged affair.

Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. If the verdict reveals Trump as guilty, this felony could result in serving time at New York’s Jail complex on Rikers Island or in an in-state prison.

Trump has been accused of falsifying his company’s records to hide the nature of payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen. One of the payments is an alleged payment of $130 thousand to Stormy Daniels to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump, before the 2016 election.

The former president pleaded not guilty to the charges and argued that he never had a sexual encounter with Daniels. His team claims that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses. 

After numerous attempts to delay the trial, the ‘Hush’ money case has arrived in court. The trial began on Monday, April 15, 2024, and has been ongoing for about a week. 

Currently, twelve jurors have already been chosen, and five remain.

Fulton County – Election Subversion 

District Attorney Fani Willis brought the election subversion case in Fulton County. In this case, Trump and eighteen other defendants are accused of working to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

The defendants face 10 charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, and soliciting a public official to violate their oath of office. They have all pleaded not guilty.

The defendants are being accused of attempting to “exploit the violence and chaos” by calling lawmakers on the evening of January 6 to delay the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. 

The prosecutors in the case also reference around six conspirators cooperating with Trump, in and out of the government, to undo election results. The conspirators are accused of advancing a scheme of placing fake electors in battleground states that were won by Biden to claim Trump won them. 

The defendants are dismissing the case as a politically motivated prosecution. 

The indictment focuses on the two months following the November 2020 election, specifically the riot at the Capitol by supporters of Trump. 

Between the election and the riot, Trump allegedly asked election officials to undo the voting results, including asking Mike Pence to halt the certification of electoral votes. 

Trump’s defense has argued that Trump has every right to challenge the results and use the courts, even if he is lying in the process.

On Feb. 6, 2024, The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling against Trump that would be implemented on Feb. 12, 2024. This ruling would go through unless Trump filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court. 

On Feb. 5, 2024, Trump’s team requested the Supreme Court to prevent this prosecution under the claim that Trump had presidential immunity at the time of the charges.

Department of Justice – Election Subversion 

This case was brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, with an indictment from a Washington Grand Jury. Federal prosecutors claim that Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6, 2020 were filled with attempts to obstruct the transition power to President Biden, and to undo the results of the election.

The charges against Trump are: conspiracy to defraud the US; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights, specifically “the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”

Trump’s lawyers asked federal judges to dismiss this case, arguing that Trump’s actions are protected under the presidential immunity he possessed at the time. 

A district judge ruled that Trump did not have immunity, and Trump’s lawyers appealed. Trump’s appeal will now be heard by the Supreme Court. The trial is on hold until the justices issue a ruling on the issue of Trump’s presidential immunity 

Impact on Election

Trump’s legal battles could have impacts on the upcoming election in November 2024. If Trump wins the political election, he would be in a position to order that all charges be dismissed or to seek pardon for himself. 

Trump is one of the top running candidates for the upcoming election, so if Trump is found guilty in these cases, it could create doubt about his credibility and character as voters make their decisions in November. 

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