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Donald Trump’s 4 biggest legal threats

Donald Trump’s 4 biggest legal threats

After years of inquiries and allegations, Donald Trump was finally charged with a crime at the end of March. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had filed dozens of felony charges against the former president and potential successor for falsifying financial records in connection with alleged hush money payments meant to cover up his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.


The allegations are not just a first in history, which Trump has categorically rejected. Additionally, they represent just the tip of the former president’s legal problems as he prepares to run for office again in 2024. About one month later, prominent Elle magazine journalist E. Jean Carroll told a New York courtroom that “Donald Trump raped me,” beginning a lengthy investigation.

These two cases, which are currently each making their individual way through the complicated legal system of the country, have reignited a long-running discussion about Trump’s multiple electoral and legal vulnerabilities going into the 2024 presidential race. Yet, as the battle for 2024 gets more intense, Trump has already started utilizing his legal predicament as a launchpad for a new fundraising effort to supporters, even as competitors and opponents capitalize on his potentially criminal weakness.

While Trump has skillfully dodged litigation and threats of criminal action for his own reasons in the past (and in some cases even used them), he is now for the first time in his career facing a very real potential of being found guilty and accountable for a number of different offenses.

Author E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuits over alleged 1990s rape

Trump’s most immediate legal threat comes from former Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who alleges the former president raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman’s department store dressing room during the mid-1990s. Trump has denied the allegations, calling Carroll “not my type” in 2019, and then a “hoax” and “con job” three years later. Carroll’s suit, filed in federal court since she and Trump live in separate states, is currently at trial in Manhattan. While Carroll has sued for defamation twice, following each of Trump’s comments, her second suit also carries a battery claim following a newly enacted New York state law expanding the statute of limitations for alleged victims of sexual assault to seek damages. Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina has pushed back on both Carroll’s claims, as well as against the court itself — in early May Tacopina file a motion to declare a mistrial, alleging “pervasive unfair and prejudicial rulings,” against his client, even as he proceeded with cross-examining Carroll over factual details of her claims, such as her inability to recall the precise date of the alleged rape.

Carroll is requesting Trump be declared liable for battery and defamation, and has asked for an unspecified monetary award for damages.   

The Stormy Daniels hush money payments

There’s an irony of sorts to the fact that Trump’s first criminal indictment is perhaps also his most mundane; he stands accused of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, related to his having paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence on their alleged sexual relationship during the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors are also exploring whether there were similar payments made to other paramours. In particular, The New York Times reports, prosecutors under Bragg are looking into whether the then-candidate “falsely accounted” for that money when he reimbursed his former attorney Michael Cohen, who facilitated the transaction.

Moreover, because the alleged hush money payment occurred within the context of the 2016 election, prosecutors are also examining whether election laws were broken as well. Separately, although relatedly, Daniels was ordered to pay Trump more than $100,000 for legal fees in April, after she unsuccessfully sued him for defamation in 2018.

While the Daniels hush money payments may or may not be proven to directly relate to electoral politics, Trump faces a potential indictment in a separate district attorney’s investigation that is inextricable from his time as president. 


2020 election subversion in Georgia 

It’s been nearly a year since Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fanni Willis empaneled a grand jury to investigate alleged efforts by Trump and his allies to manipulate voting results in the 2020 presidential election in the hopes of overturning his electoral loss in that state. In that time jurors have heard from 75 witnesses, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and attorneys John Eastman and Jenna Ellis, while they probed incidents such as Trump’s personal call to Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding he “find” more than 11,000 votes in his favor.

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