For much of his adult life, Donald Trump was known for going after his enemies with frivolous lawsuits, so much so that by the time he ran for president in 2016, he and his businesses had been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions. According to a 2016 report, Trump had no qualms about responding to “even small disputes with overwhelming legal force” and didn’t “hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources,” sometimes refusing “to pay real estate brokers, lawyers, and other vendors.” In other words, he was a consummate bully who used his money and power to screw over little people, and never worried about the tables being turned, as he would simply countersue, like his family business did in the 1970s when the Justice Department accused it of discriminatory housing practices. But as the old saying goes, “karma is a bitch and she relishes the idea of a litigious a-hole living out his last days in prison."
On top of the well-publicized investigations into Trump out of New York—one from Attorney General Letitia James and the other from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.—the ex-president is facing no fewer than three probes concerning his attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Two of those investigations are based out of Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in February she is looking into Trump’s infamous call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the then president pressured Raffensperger to “find” him the necessary votes to win. Willis’s investigation is criminal in nature and will reportedly focus on whether or not Trump broke state laws against “solicitation of election fraud,” racketeering, conspiracy, or making threats related to the election administration. Separately, Raffensperger’s office is also probing Trump’s actions. Additionally, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s actions on the day an angry mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol and tried to block the certification of Joe Biden’s win; according to a spokesperson for Racine, the A.G. is probing if Trump violated D.C. law by “inciting or provoking violence.” While Racine would not be able to charge the 45th president with a felony due to the limits of D.C. law, per The Washington Post, if charged, he could be arrested in the District of Columbia, effectively ensuring he’ll never step foot in the nation’s capital again. On top of that the Department of Justice has launched a broad investigation into the Capitol attack, which could mean it is looking into the ex-president’s role.
And then there are the lawsuits! Per The Washington Post:
- "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…. Among the 29 lawsuits Trump is facing, about 18 result from disputes with his properties: slip-and-fall suits, an allegation about bedbugs at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, a suit alleging that his Chicago hotel sucked out river water without a permit. These are the kinds of suits Trump might have faced whether or not he was president. But his single term may still hamper his ability to fight them: The law firm Seyfarth Shaw, which represented Trump in some of these disputes, quit in reaction to the events of Jan. 6. His lawyers in the Chicago River suit have also quit, though they declined to say why."
The rest of the suits seem to have been brought on by his presidency: They focus on Trump’s actions or on long-hidden business practices that were revealed while he was under the presidential spotlight.
In Washington, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, filed a suit accusing Trump of conspiring to intimidate and block Congress’s certification of the 2020 election. Thompson’s case relies on the Ku Klux Klan Act, enacted after the Civil War in 1871 to bar violent interference in Congress’s constitutional duties. It seeks unspecified monetary damages from Trump, Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and two far-right militant groups whose affiliates have been charged in the Capitol assault, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Trump is also dealing with defamation lawsuits brought by Summer Zervos and E. Jean Carroll, both of whom allege Trump sexually assaulted them, which he of course denies, just like he has denied the dozens of other sexual misconduct allegations against him. In the case of Carroll, Trump tried to use the weight of the Justice Department to get the suit thrown out, a protection obviously no longer afforded to him as an ex-president. In another case, a group of current and former tenants in Trump buildings allege Donald and his late father, Fred Trump, used phony invoices to illegally raise their rents, a scheme revealed by The New York Times.
As the Post notes, though Trump is clearly no stranger to legal drama, the unique position he finds himself in postpresidency (and post-insurrection) means he may very well be f--ed:
- "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 told the Post."
Though there are many to choose from, presumably the most worrisome legal issue facing Trump is Vance’s criminal investigation, which is looking into possible insurance, bank, and tax fraud. Last month, the Manhattan D.A.’s office hired Mark Pomerantz, who helped put John Gotti and others involved in organized crime behind bars, to work on the Trump case. Among other things, Pomerantz has reportedly been working on getting Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO who knows where all the bodies are buried, to flip. Equally terrifying, for someone trying to stay out of prison, is the fact that Vance has something no other investigator looking into Trump’s affairs has had before: the ex-president’s tax returns, which the former real estate developer curiously refused to release while running for office and fought tooth and nail to keep secret. After the Supreme Court rejected his last-ditch attempt to keep the information out of Vance‘s hands, Trump flew off the handle, calling himself the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” And while that’s not actually true, you can probably understand why he was upset! As former fixer Michael Cohen told the Post, “the level of review” being undertaken by Vance’s office, “is unprecedented in Trump’s corporate history,” on par with “a proctological exam of the highest order.”
P.S. Trump is also financially screwed
Yes, he’s still worth some $2.5 billion, but that’s down $700 million since he became president and it appears the number may continue to plummet, per the Post:
- "Several of his hotels and resorts reported sharp downturns in 2020. At Trump Tower in Manhattan, one major commercial tenant—Tiffany & Co.—is planning to vacate its space. Another, Marc Fisher Footwear, stopped paying rent in November, according to a lawsuit the Trump Organization filed against the footwear company this month. The company owes more than $1.4 million in back payments, according to the suit."
Meanwhile, thanks to the events of January 6, 2021, Trump can no longer rely on previous sources of income like hosting LPGA events, which may make it difficult to repay the $1 billion he owes creditors. On the other hand, who knows how much money he’ll make scamming his supporters through his super PAC!