- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Donald Trump has departed Washington DC in greater legal jeopardy than when he arrived. Despite the president’s pronouncement that he possesses the “absolute right to PARDON” himself, he flinched. When Trump delivered scores of late-night pardons with just hours to go in the job, his name and those of his family members were not on the list, not even Ivanka.
Instead, the former television reality show host stands to star in another drama of his own making, but this time as a possible criminal defendant. From New York to Atlanta – and parts in between – federal and state prosecutors may be lining up for their shot at the twice-impeached president.
In case anyone forgot, the US attorneys’ office for the southern district of New York previously treated Trump aka “Individual-1” as un-indicted co-conspirator in Michael Cohen’s case. As a result, the confirmation hearings of Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, will certainly be interesting.
Already, prosecutors in Manhattan have the Orange Don and his crew in their cross-hairs. According to court filings and published reports, Cyrus Vance Jr, Manhattan’s district attorney, is investigating the truthfulness of the Trump Organization’s financial reporting and the company’s relationship with Deutsche Bank.
It is not for nothing that Trump again appealed to the US supreme court to quash a subpoena issued to his accountants for eight years of tax returns. Trump previously lost a similar bid last summer.
Back in July, Chief Justice John Roberts derailed Trump’s efforts to shroud his tax filings from Vance’s office. “No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding”, wrote Roberts. For good measure, Brett Kavanaugh, the infamous Trump appointee added: “In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law.”
There is little reason to believe that Trump’s latest gambit will be any more successful than what came before it, especially as he will no longer be president. A reminder, the same justices repeatedly rejected his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
When Trump lands in Mar-a-Lago just hours from now, his claims of immunity will be ready to wither. Justice department guidelines would no longer preclude the “sovereign district of New York” from re-examining Trump’s role in Cohen’s hush-money payments in the waning days of Trump’s 2016 run to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model. Former presidents receive less prosecutorial deference.
In addition, Trump’s recent bouts of wrath have given lawyers in Washington and Georgia plenty to ponder. Local authorities in the Peach state are weighing a criminal investigation into his failed efforts to browbeat Brad Raffensperger, the state’s secretary of state, into submission. Trump telling Raffensperger to “find” 11,779 more votes and interfering with election certification may have been a step too far.
And then there is the Trump-fomented insurrection. When Bill Barr, Trump’s second attorney general, lays the blame at his one-time boss’ feet, it is clear that the story is no longer simply about over-zealous House Democrats. Likewise, when Senator Mitch McConnell accuses the president of “feeding the mob lies” and provoking insurrection, conviction of Trump by the US senate is very much on the table.
In a word, Trump’s problems aren’t disappearing. Two separate federal statutes and a law on DC’s books may have criminalized Trump’s exhortations to his devotees to “fight like hell” in the face of his loss, a reality acknowledged by Karl Racine, the District’s attorney general.
To be sure, Trump is not the only person within his own orbit who remains at risk. Rudy Giuliani could have used a pardon but didn’t get one; his well-publicized pleas for a pardon have gone unmet. Instead, the man who was once called “America’s mayor” is now a punchline with really bad hair.
Worse still for Giuliani, he may have legal exposure arising from his efforts in Ukraine. Giuliani now sits in the same boat as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, three men with uncertain futures.
As always, there were winners. Steve Bannon, the mastermind of Trump’s 2016 upset victory, will no longer face pending felony charges in connection with a fundraising scheme. Apparently, the fact that Bannon subsequently called for the execution of Anthony Fauci did not deter Trump: Bannon was there for Trump when the president sought to upend the will of the people. To Trump, Bannon will always be “my Steve”.
Another Trump beneficiary is Elliott Broidy, a former deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee – just like Michael Cohen. This past fall, Broidy pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges connected to foreign influence peddling. For good measure, Broidy aka David Dennison was party to a non-disclosure agreement with Shera Bechard, another Playboy model. In Trump World this appears to be a “thing”.
Since his second impeachment, Trump has remained outside the public’s eye. Getting Trump staffers to attend their boss’s sendoff at Joint Base Andrews has been difficult. On the other hand, Trump’s swamp remained opened to the very end, a fitting close to the presidency from hell.