What is Donald Trump doing now?5 min read
Since leaving the White House, Donald Trump has launched his own social media platform, created a sell-out range of NFT trading cards and seen off bans imposed by Twitter and Facebook.
But three months after launching another bid for the US presidency, it’s the long string of legal threats and investigations that are dominating the headlines.
On 22 December, a House of Congress committee concluded its 18-month inquiry into the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. The report said that “central cause” of the riot was “one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others follow”. After 845-pages, it concluded: “None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him.”
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Three days before its released, the committee accused Trump of four federal crimes – including inciting insurrection, conspiring to defraud the US and obstructing an act of Congress – for which he was referred to the Justice Department.
Vice chair Liz Cheney said the investigation was “just a beginning”. Its real intent, said Politico, was to “send a signal flare to prosecutors and the voting public”.
To Trump, the inquiry was an exercise in “fake news” conducted by an “unselect committee of political hacks and thugs”. His lawyers sought to block a subpoena requiring him to testify, but their efforts were dismissed by a federal judge – “an unsurprising end to an historically significant chapter of the investigation”, said Bloomberg.
A guilty empire
Trump was facing “legal jeopardy” even before the report’s publication, said The New York Times, with a number of federal and state prosecutors busy “scrutinising” the former president’s affairs.
In December, a jury found the Trump Organization guilty on multiple charges of tax fraud in a case brought by the Manhattan district attorney. The company, which is “synonymous with the former president”, said the BBC, was found to have evaded tax payments for more than a decade by “enriching” executives with “off-the-books benefits”.
The Trump Organization was sentenced in January to the maximum allowable fine of $1.6m, “a drop in the bucket for the longstanding business empire of Trump and his family”, said The Guardian. But “the conviction is a black mark on the Republican’s reputation as a savvy businessman” as he campaigns for re-election to the White House.
Under further investigation…
The New York attorney general Letitita James has brought a separate civil lawsuit against the former president in September, accusing Trump and three of his children of committing fraud by massively overvaluing his assets to lenders and insurers.
As well as seeking to stop Trump and his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka from running a business in New York again, James is “seeking penalties that, if imposed, could effectively end the former president’s real estate career” and “would imperil the Trump Organization itself”, said the FT. They could face fines of $250m if found guilty.
Giorgio Viera / AFP via Getty Images
A special counsel is also looking into Trump’s handling of government documents after leaving the White House. In a raid last August, FBI agents discovered hundreds of classified documents had been stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence, in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Among his other legal difficulties is a criminal investigation into Trump’s alleged involvement in paying “hush money to a porn star” during his first presidential campaign, said The New York Times. The former president denies that he had an alleged affair with Stormy Daniels – whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford – and has described the inquiry “as a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’”.
Upon the announcement of Biden’s electoral victory on 7 November 2020, Trump began a tireless campaign to overturn the result and challenge the new Democratic administration. The former president has “made clear he is still irked at his inability to hang on to the White House”, said Reuters.
A phone call leaked to The Wall Street Journal in March 2021 revealed that he had told an election investigator that “she would be praised if she came up with the ‘right answer’ after insisting that he was the true winner” of Georgia’s count.
By the time Biden was marking two months in office, Trump and others had gone to court in six states with allegations of voting fraud, misallocation of votes and manipulation of signature-verification machinery among other claims. They “lost more than 60 cases, including at the Supreme Court”, The Washington Post reported.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A grand jury in Georgia recently concluded its investigation into Trump and his allies’ alleged interference with the 2020 election. Their findings remain secret for now, as Judge Robert C. I. McBurney “is weighing whether to make all or part of the report public”, said The New York Times.
About 20 people could face charges, the newspaper said, though whether Trump is among them “is unclear”. His legal team said in a statement this month that the former president was “never subpoenaed nor asked to come in voluntarily”. It can be assumed, they said, that the grand jury “concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump”.
Trump’s legal problems haven’t deterred him from another run at the White House. A week after the predicted “red wave” failed to materialise at the midterm elections last year, he announced that he would run for the Republican candidacy ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
American voters appear divided over the prospect, according to recent polls. A survey of 1,003 US adults conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News in January found 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters want the former president to stand as the party’s nominee in 2024. But 49% would prefer a different candidate.
Trump is “likely to face at least several challengers” within the party, said The Washington Post. Nikki Haley is expected to be the first Republican to officially challenge the former president, with a “big announcement” pencilled in for 15 February. Ron DeSantis is also expected to run.