Tue. Sep 27th, 2022

What is Donald Trump doing now?

An appeals court in the US has allowed the Department of Justice to resume the investigation of classified documents seized during the search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The development, described by the Financial Times as a “victory for legal authorities in their legal tussle with the former president”, comes in the same week as Trump and three of his family members were accused of lying to tax collectors, lenders and insurers in a “staggering” fraud scheme.

“Mr Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends,” said New York state attorney-general Letitia James, alluding to his 1987 memoir The Art of the Deal as she announced the lawsuit. The Trump Organization has called legal action “political harassment”.

Criminal investigation 

Trump and three of his adult children are facing a fraud lawsuit after an investigation into their family company concluded that they lied “by billions” about the value of real estate in order to get loans and pay less tax. 

The lawsuit claimed that Trump provided fraudulent statements of his net worth and false asset valuations to obtain and satisfy loans, get insurance benefits and pay lower taxes. His adult children Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric were also named as defendants.

Attorney-general Letitia James, a Democrat, said: “This conduct cannot be brushed aside and dismissed as some sort of good-faith mistake.” However, the Trump attorney Alina Habba told CNN that the filing is “neither focused on the facts nor the law”.

The fallout could be deadly to Trump’s hopes of a return to the White House. 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.

The former president’s “legal perils” have become “insurmountable and could “snuff out” his hopes of an election-winning comeback, political analysts and legal experts told The Guardian.

“He’s done,” said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, in Washington, who has accurately predicted every White House election since 1984. “He’s got too many burdens, too much baggage to be able to run again even presuming he escapes jail, he escapes bankruptcy.”

Pardons for Capitol rioters promised  

In a radio interview on 1 September, Trump said he would pardon some of the rioters who took part in the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January last year, if he were elected to the White House again. 

“I mean full pardons with an apology to many,” he told Wendy Bell, a conservative radio host. Trump added that he would be “looking very, very strongly about pardons, full pardons”.

And in a fiery rally speech in the key election state of Pennsylvania on 3 September – his first public appearance since the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago in August – Trump warned that the search for government documents at his private residence would produce a backlash “the likes of which nobody has ever seen”. 

Challenging Joe Biden’s success 

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 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. 

In a civil suit involving the House committee investigating the riot, a US district judge ruled in March that Trump was “more likely than not” to have committed crimes in his efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 US election

Judge David Carter delivered his ruling after ordering that emails sent by John Eastman, Trump’s former legal adviser, be handed to the congressional committee investigating the events of 6 January, when pro-Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. 

The “ruling has no influence on whether Trump will face criminal charges stemming from January 6”, The Times said, “but it is the first time a judge has stated that the former president probably broke the law to try to stay in power”. 

US Capitol attack hearings 

Trump has hit out at the House of Representatives committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol. Following the committee’s first public hearing in June, he lambasted the “unselect committee of political hacks and thugs” and branded their findings “fake news”. 

In a statement posted on his social media network, Truth Social, the former president said: “Our Country is in such trouble!” The committee “refuses to play any of the many positive witnesses and statements” or “to talk of the Election Fraud and Irregularities that took place on a massive scale”, he wrote. 

Trump has also used Truth Social to defend the deadly riot at the US Capitol, during which thousands of his supporters stormed the building in an attempt to halt the certification of Biden’s election victory. “January 6th was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again,” he wrote in a post in June. 

The series of televised hearings which took place over the summer, with at least one more expected in September, laid out “extensive” evidence that Trump encouraged rioters to go to the Capitol on 6 January and “resisted efforts to quell the violence”, said The Guardian

Taking on the tech giants 

The suspension of Trump’s social media accounts in January 2021 did not deter the former president from taking on the digital world. Launching Truth Social in October, he said the platform would “stand up to the tyranny of big tech”, which he accused of stifling opposing voices in the US.  

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American president has been silenced,” he added. 

BBC North America technology reporter James Clayton said Trump “clearly wants his megaphone back” and “thinks this might be his ticket”. But the new site “simply won’t” rival the big technology giants, he added. 

Trump also experienced problems in March last year when he launched 45Office.com, a website commemorating his time in the White House. The site features what The Guardian’s Martin Belam described as “a very selective retelling of the history of his time in office”. Visitors can submit event invitations to the former president and his wife, Melania Trump, as well as request special-occasion greetings from the pair. 

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