This year promises to be a busy one for the Trump legal team, with the former US president facing accusations of wrongdoing – ranging from the civil to the criminal to the unconstitutional – in multiple states and jurisdictions. Here is a look at the four criminal indictments (and others) that Donald Trump will be facing in 2024, even as he vies to retake the presidency in November.
Donald Trump has been charged with a total of 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments, with the former president facing possible prison sentences in each case.
- Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with four counts related to federal election interference for his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential vote (trial set for March 4)
- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on 34 felony counts involving the falsification of business records to conceal hush money payments (trial set for March 25)
- The special counsel unsealed 37 felony charges related to mishandling classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate (trial set for May 20)
- Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis brought a total of 41 counts against Trump and 18 others related to election interference (trial requested for August 5).
As his legal team exercises its options for legal challenges, appeal and delays, trial dates are subject to change.
Trump is also awaiting a verdict in a far-reaching civil fraud case in New York that could see the dismantlement of his business empire. Attorney General Letitia James has requested that Trump be banned from real estate dealings and from operating businesses in the state.
Adding to his legal woes are individual challenges filed in more than a dozen states alleging that Trump is ineligible to run for president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies anyone who has “engaged in insurrection” against the United States after having sworn an oath to support the Constitution as “an officer of the United States”. Trump’s legal defense has argued that a president is not “an officer of the United States” and so the 14th Amendment clause does not apply to him. After the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified him from the 2024 state ballot in December, Trump asked the US Supreme Court to reverse the decision; if the high court agrees to hear the case, its ruling would affect all such outstanding cases at the state level.
Trump denies wrongdoing in all of the charges he faces.
Federal election interference: four counts
Special Counsel Jack Smith unveiled four felony counts against Trump related to his attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election, including his actions during the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol:
- conspiracy “to defraud the United States by using dishonesty” to obstruct the work of the federal government in certifying the results of the presidential election;
- conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, i.e., “the certification of the electoral vote”;
- obstruction of an official proceeding regarding same; and
- conspiracy to prevent others from exercising their constitutional right to vote and to have their votes counted.
Smith’s August 2023 indictment focuses on the attempt to substitute fake electors and pressure then vice president Mike Pence not to certify the results of the 2020 election. The indictment also recounts Trump’s infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked him to “find 11,780 votes” that would win Trump the state.
The indictment notably avoided charging Trump with inciting an insurrection or “seditious conspiracy”, thereby sidestepping what could have been a First Amendment free-speech defense. It accuses Trump instead of fraudulently pushing claims he knew to be untrue after numerous members of his entourage told him the 2020 election was legitimate.
Trump and his legal team argue the case is politically motivated, an attempt to undermine his 2024 bid for the presidency. His lawyers have also argued that Trump is immune from prosecution because his actions that day were taken as part of his official role as president – the now infamous “presidential immunity” argument.
Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, has rejected that argument, saying the office of the president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass”. Chutkan “has consistently taken the hardest line against Jan. 6 defendants of any judge serving on Washington’s federal trial court”, according to the AP.
The most serious of the four charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but is subject to a judge’s discretion.
Read the full indictment here.
Falsifying business records in New York: 34 felony counts
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought 34 felony counts against Trump in April 2023 for falsifying business records “to conceal criminal conduct” from voters in the runup to the 2016 election. The falsified records “mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature” of payments made to tabloids to suppress damaging information about Trump as well as hush money paid to conceal his extramarital affairs.
While falsifying business records is a misdemeanor under NY law, it becomes a felony if the records were falsified as part of committing separate crimes, in this case violations of NY election laws, exceeding caps on campaign contributions or making false statements to tax authorities. The indictment alleges that Trump representatives organised a “catch and kill” scheme to pay off tabloids that were preparing to run stories damaging to Trump. Trump “then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws”, Bragg’s statement said.
This indictment marked the first time a former US president has ever been charged with a crime.
Longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in 2018 – among them a $130,000 payment he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a shell corporation – and served a three-year prison sentence, most of it under house arrest. Bragg’s indictment also alleges that Trump asked Cohen to try to delay the payment to Daniels until after the 2016 election, saying that “at that point it would not matter if the story became public”.
Cohen has since testified against Trump in a separate civil fraud case filed by NY Attorney General Letitia James (see below).
Trump faces up to four years in prison for each count if convicted on fraudulent bookkeeping charges, but a judge could impose these sentences to be served consecutively.
Read the full indictment here.
Mishandling classified documents: 37 felony counts
Trump was indicted in June 2023 on 37 felony charges related to the removal and retention of classified documents, including 31 violations of the Espionage Act. The documents were stored haphazardly in unsecured areas of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence, including in a ballroom, a bathroom, his bedroom and a storage room. On at least two occasions, Trump shared some of these documents – including a “plan of attack” and a “classified map related to a military operation” – with individuals who did not possess a security clearance.
The FBI opened a criminal investigation into the unlawful retention of classified material at Mar-a-Lago in March 2022 and a grand jury subpoena ordered Trump to return all documents with classified markings. According to the indictment, Trump then “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents” by, among other things, suggesting his attorney hide or destroy the requested documents and instructing others to conceal them.
“Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced,” said Special Counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation. “Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
Trump faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of “willfully” retaining national defense documents under US espionage provisions and up to 20 years for each count of obstructing justice for refusing to turn over the documents.
Read the full indictment here.
Election interference in Georgia: the most complex case
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged Trump and 18 others – including Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – with 41 counts related to conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, including impersonating a public official, forgery and pressuring public officials to violate their oaths.
The charges, 13 of which are against Trump, include violations of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, often used to target organised crime. The use of the RICO act was an unusual move that alleges the defendants were part of a “criminal enterprise” focused on keeping Trump in office and allows each defendant’s statements to be used against the other accused.
The Georgia indictment is arguably the most complicated of the criminal cases Trump is facing: it details 161 separate acts across seven states that were allegedly part of a sweeping conspiracy to overturn the election. Some of the defendants, which include fake GOP electors, are accused of illegally accessing voter data, sharing that stolen data with other states, and of breaching voting machines.
Some of Trump’s co-accused have already pleaded guilty, agreed to testify and promised to cooperate with the prosecution. Perhaps even more ominously for Trump, a RICO conviction in Georgia carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
Read the full indictment here.
In addition to the charges outlined above, Trump is facing both civil and criminal cases related to his business dealings as well as allegations of sexual abuse.
Trump Organization found liable for fraud; trial verdict expected
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit against Trump, the Trump Organization and his three adult children for fraud in September 2022 alleging that Trump systematically inflated his assets and net worth to reap tax benefits and persuade banks to offer Trump entities better terms. James’s office documented more than 200 examples of misleading valuations, among them 23 assets whose values were “grossly and fraudulently inflated”.
In a pretrial summary judgment in September 2023, Justice Arthur Engoron found that Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric inflated the value of Trump assets by between $812 million and $2.2 billion. The overvaluations included Trump’s Florida property at Mar-a-Lago, his penthouse apartment in Trump Tower as well as various golf courses and commercial buildings.
Trump inflated the value of Mar-a-Lago by more than 22 times, according to some estimates, placing its worth between $420 million and $1.5 billion. One independent assessor found its market value to be closer to $27 million while some Palm Beach realtors say it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. James has argued Trump’s valuation of the property does not take into account the restrictions on its deed, including the stipulation that it cannot be sold or used as a private residence.
Justice Engoron reportedly took particular exception to the overvaluation of the former president’s Trump Tower penthouse by as much as $207 million, based on the claim that it is almost three times larger than it actually is. “A discrepancy of this order of magnitude by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades can only be considered fraud,” Engoron wrote.
The judge rejected Trump’s argument that his real estate holdings are not overvalued because he could always find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay the inflated prices.
Engoron also ordered the cancellation of certificates allowing some Trump entities, notably the Trump Organization, to do business in New York and ordered a receiver to be appointed who will manage the dissolution of Trump companies. James has requested that the former president and his sons be removed from managing the Trump Organization.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen testified against his former boss in late 2023, saying he and others were specifically told to overvalue Trump’s assets.
“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets, based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen told the court, saying he and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg would “reverse-engineer the various different asset classes” to increase the value of those assets to “whatever number Trump told us to”.
The case went to trial in October and closing statements were delivered in January 2024. James was seeking $370 million in penalties and asking that Trump be banned from any real estate dealings and from operating businesses in the state of New York.
Read the full lawsuit here.
Trump found liable for sex abuse, defamation of E. Jean Carroll
A jury unanimously found Trump liable in May 2023 for sexually abusing and defaming prominent columnist E. Jean Carroll in the late 1990s, awarding her $5 million in damages in a civil case. The federal trial included testimony from two other women who also say Trump sexually assaulted them.
A second defamation trial, in which Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages, began in mid-January.
Trump Organization convicted of criminal tax fraud
The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp., both sub-entities of the Trump Organization, were convicted in December 2022 on all 17 counts for tax crimes including conspiracy and falsifying business records. The Trump Organization was eventually fined the maximum penalty of $1.6 million; the company has said it will appeal.
The Trump Organization, which is now run by Trump sons Donald Jr and Eric, was accused of hiding much of the compensation it paid executives between 2005 and 2021. Longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg lived rent-free in a Trump building in Manhattan while he and his wife drove Mercedes-Benz leased by the Trump Organization. Weisselberg admitted to not paying taxes on $1.7 million in remuneration during his testimony, adding that he and others also conspired to falsify W-2 tax forms. Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in prison in January 2023 and agreed to pay $2 million in fines.
Following the verdict, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he didn’t think the $1.6 million fine went far enough. “Our laws in this state need to change in order to capture this type of decade-plus systemic and egregious fraud,” he said outside the courtroom.
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