Jan 25 (Reuters) – Donald Trump could learn soon whether he or any associates will be charged or cleared of wrongdoing in a Georgia probe into his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, one of a series of legal threats looming over the Republican former US president:
GEORGIA ELECTION TAMPERING PROBE
On Tuesday, the prosecutor in the state of Georgia spoke to a judge on behalf of a special grand jury empanelled in May to investigate Trump’s alleged efforts to influence that state’s 2020 election results.
Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney and a Democrat who will ultimately decide whether to pursue charges against Trump or anyone else, said the grand jury had completed its task and decisions were “imminent.”
The investigation focuses in part on a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, on Jan. 2, 2021. Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss in Georgia.
Legal experts said Trump may have violated at least three Georgia criminal election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and intentional interference with performance of election duties.
Trump could argue that his discussions were constitutionally protected free speech.
US CAPITOL ATTACK
The US Justice Department has investigations under way into both Trump’s actions in the 2020 election and his retention of highly classified documents after departing the White House in 2021.
Both investigations involving Trump are being overseen by Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor and political independent. Trump has accused the FBI, without evidence, of launching the probes as political retribution.
A special House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the US Capitol urged the Justice Department to charge Trump with corruption of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and inciting or aiding an insurrection.
The request is non-binding. Only the Justice Department can decide whether to charge Trump, who has called the Democratic-led panel’s investigation a politically motivated sham.
MISSING GOVERNMENT RECORDS
US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith to investigate whether Trump improperly retained classified records at his Florida estate after he left office in 2021 and then tried to obstruct a federal investigation.
Garland also appointed former US Attorney Robert Hur for Maryland to investigate the removal of classified records in President Joe Biden’s possession dating to his time as vice president.
It is unlawful to willfully remove or retain classified material.
In Trump’s case, the FBI seized 11,000 documents from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago Florida estate in a court-approved Aug. 8 searches. About 100 documents were marked classified; some were designated top secret, the highest level of classification.
Trump has accused the Justice Department of engaging in a partisan witch hunt.
NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL CIVIL LAWSUIT
New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a civil lawsuit filed in September that her office uncovered more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations by Trump and the Trump Organization business between 2011 and 2021.
At Democrat, James accused Trump of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain lower interest rates on loans and get better insurance coverage.
A New York judge ordered that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the Trump Organization before the case goes to trial in October 2023.
James seeks to permanently bar Trump and his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump from running companies in New York state, and to prevent them and his company from buying new properties and taking out new loans in the state for five years.
James also wants the defendants to hand over about $250 million that she says was obtained through fraud.
Trump has called the attorney general’s lawsuit a witch hunt. A lawyer for Trump has called James’ claims meritless.
James said her probe also uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing, which she referred to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service for investigation.
E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer, has filed two lawsuits accusing Trump of having defamed her when he denied her allegation that he raped her in New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996.
Trump accuses her of lying to drum up sales for a book.
Carroll first sued Trump after he denied the accusation in June 2019 and told a reporter at the White House that he did not know Carroll, that “she’s not my type,” and that she concocted the claim to sell her new memoir.
The second lawsuit arose from an October 2022 social media post where Trump called the rape claim a “hoax,” “lie,” “con job” and “complete scam,” and said “this can only happen to ‘Trump’!”
That lawsuit includes a battery claim under the Adult Survivors Act, which starting last Nov. 24 gave adults a one-year window to sue their alleged attackers even if statutes of limitations have expired.
A US judge on Jan. 13 rejected as “absurd” Trump’s effort to dismiss the second lawsuit.
Trump and Carroll are awaiting a decision from a Washington, DC, appeals court on whether, under local law, Trump should be immune from Carroll’s first lawsuit over his June 2019 comments.
That lawsuit would likely be dismissed if the court decided that Trump spoke within his role as president, and continue if Trump spoke in his personal capacity as Carroll argues.
Any decision would have no effect on Carroll’s second defamation and battery lawsuit. A trial in the first lawsuit is scheduled for April 10.
NEW YORK CRIMINAL PROBE
Although Trump was not charged with wrongdoing, his real estate company was found guilty on Dec. 6 of tax fraud in New York state. A judge this month sentenced Trump’s namesake real estate company to pay a $1.6 million criminal penalty, the maximum the judge could impose.
Jurors convicted the Trump Organization, which operates hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, of paying personal expenses for top executives including former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, and issuing bonus checks to them as if they were independent contractors.
Weisselberg, the company’s former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty and was required to testify against the Trump Organization as part of his plea agreement. He is also a defendant in James’ civil lawsuit.
Reporting by Joseph Ax, Luc Cohen, Karen Freifeld, Sarah N. Lynch, Jonathan Stempel and Jacqueline Thomsen; Editing by Howard Goller
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