The Cases Against Trump: A Guide (2024)

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Donald Trump has become the first former president to be convicted of a felony, found guilty of 34 counts in a Manhattan court on May 30.

The verdict is a historic moment. Not long ago, the idea that a former president—or a major-party presidential nominee—would face serious legal jeopardy was nearly unthinkable. Now he is convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced this fall.

In addition to the conviction in Manhattan, Trump faces 57 more felony counts across one state court and two different federal districts, any of which could potentially produce a prison sentence. He also lost a civil suit in New York that could hobble his business empire, as well as a pair of large defamation judgments. Meanwhile, he is the presumptive Republican nominee for president. His legal fate is being litigated at the same time that his political future is before voters.

David A. Graham: The end of Trump Inc.

Here’s a summary of the major legal cases against Trump, including key dates, an assessment of the gravity of the charges, and expectations about how they could turn out. This guide will be updated regularly as the cases proceed.

New York State: Fraud

In the fall of 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil suit against Trump, his adult sons, and his former aide Allen Weisselberg, alleging a years-long scheme in which Trump fraudulently reported the value of properties in order to either lower his tax bill or improve the terms of his loans, all with an eye toward inflating his net worth.

When?
Justice Arthur Engoron ruled on February 16 that Trump must pay $355 million plus interest, the calculated size of his ill-gotten gains from fraud. The judge had previously ruled against Trump and his co-defendants in late September 2023, concluding that many of the defendants’ claims were “clearly” fraudulent—so clearly that he didn’t need a trial to hear them.

How grave was the allegation?
Fraud is fraud, and in this case, the sum of the fraud stretched into the hundreds of millions—but compared with some of the other legal matters in which Trump is embroiled, this is a little pedestrian. The case was also civil rather than criminal. But although the stakes are lower for the nation, they remain high for Trump: The size of the penalty appears to be larger than Trump can easily pay, and he also faces a three-year ban on operating his company.

What happens now?
Trump has appealed the case. On March 25, the day he was supposed to post bond, an appeals court reduced the amount he must post from more than $464 million to $175 million. He must appeal by this summer.

Manhattan: Defamation and Sexual Assault

Although these other cases are all brought by government entities, Trump also faced a pair of defamation suits from the writer E. Jean Carroll, who said that Trump sexually assaulted her in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. When he denied it, she sued him for defamation and later added a battery claim.

When?
In May 2023, a jury concluded that Trump had sexually assaulted and defamed Carroll, and awarded her $5 million. A second defamation case produced an $83.3 million judgment in January 2024.

How grave was the allegation?
Although these cases didn’t directly connect to the same fundamental issues of rule of law and democratic governance that some of the criminal cases do, they were a serious matter, and a federal judge’s blunt statement that Trump raped Carroll has gone underappreciated.

What happens now?
Trump has appealed both cases, and he posted bond for the $83.3 million in March. During the second trial, he also continued to insult Carroll, which may have courted additional defamation suits.

Manhattan: Hush Money

In March 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg became the first prosecutor to bring felony charges against Trump, alleging that the former president falsified business records as part of a scheme to pay hush money to women who said they’d had sexual relationships with Trump.

When?
The trial began on April 15 and ended with a May 30 conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for September 18.

How grave was the allegation?
Many people have analogized this case to Al Capone’s conviction on tax evasion: It’s not that he didn’t deserve it, but it wasn’t really why he was an infamous villain. Trump did deserve it, and he’s now a convicted felon. Moreover, although the charges were about falsifying records, those records were falsified to keep information from the public as it voted in the 2016 election. It was among the first of Trump’s many attacks on fair elections. (His two impeachments were also for efforts to undermine the electoral process.) If at times this case felt more minor compared with the election-subversion or classified-documents cases, it’s because those other cases have set a grossly high standard for what constitutes gravity.

What happens now?
The next major step is sentencing. That was originally scheduled for July, but it has been delayed until September 18 while a judge considers Trump’s argument that the U.S. Supreme Court’s immunity decision invalidates his conviction.

Department of Justice: Mar-a-Lago Documents

Jack Smith, a special counsel in the U.S. Justice Department, has charged Trump with 37 felonies in connection with his removal of documents from the White House when he left office. The charges include willful retention of national-security information, obstruction of justice, withholding of documents, and false statements. Trump took boxes of documents to properties, where they were stored haphazardly, but the indictment centers on his refusal to give them back to the government despite repeated requests.

David A. Graham: This indictment is different

When?
Smith filed charges in June 2023. On May 8, 2024, following several prior delays, Judge Aileen Cannon announced that she was indefinitely postponing the trial until preliminary issues could be resolved. Smith faces a de facto deadline of January 20, 2025, at which point Trump, if reelected, would likely shut down a case.

How grave is the allegation?
These are, I have written, the stupidest crimes imaginable, but they are nevertheless very serious. Protecting the nation’s secrets is one of the greatest responsibilities of any public official with classified clearance, and not only did Trump put these documents at risk, but he also (allegedly) refused to comply with a subpoena, tried to hide the documents, and lied to the government through his attorneys.

How plausible is a guilty verdict?
This looked to be the most open-and-shut case: The facts and legal theory here are pretty straightforward. But Smith seems to have drawn a short straw when he was randomly assigned Cannon, a Trump appointee who has repeatedly ruled favorably for Trump on procedural matters and bogged the case down in endless pretrial arguments. Some legal commentators have even accused her of “sabotaging” the case.

Fulton County: Election Subversion

In Fulton County, Georgia, which includes most of Atlanta, District Attorney Fani Willis brought a huge racketeering case against Trump and 18 others, alleging a conspiracy that spread across weeks and states with the aim of stealing the 2020 election.

When?
Willis obtained the indictment in August 2023. The number of people charged makes the case unwieldy and difficult to track. Several of them, including Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, struck plea deals in the fall. Because a challenge to Willis’s presence on the case isn’t going to be heard until October, the case is not expected to begin before the election.

How grave is the allegation?
More than any other case, this one attempts to reckon with the full breadth of the assault on democracy following the 2020 election.

How plausible is a guilty verdict?
Expert views differ. This is a huge case for a local prosecutor, even in a county as large as Fulton, to bring. The racketeering law allows Willis to sweep in a great deal of material, and she has some strong evidence—such as a call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” some 11,000 votes. Three major plea deals from co-defendants may also ease Willis’s path, but getting a jury to convict Trump will still be a challenge. The case has also been hurt by the revelation of a romantic relationship between Willis and an attorney she hired as a special prosecutor. On March 15, Judge Scott McAfee declined to throw out the indictment, but he sharply castigated Willis.

Department of Justice: Election Subversion

Special Counsel Smith has also charged Trump with four federal felonies in connection with his attempt to remain in power after losing the 2020 election. This case is in court in Washington, D.C.

When?
A grand jury indicted Trump on August 1, 2023. The trial was originally scheduled for March but was frozen while the Supreme Court mulled whether the former president should be immune to prosecution. On July 1, 2024, the justices ruled that a president is immune from prosecution for official but not unofficial acts. They decided that some of Trump’s post-election actions were official acts and sent the case back to the trial court to determine others. That likely means several more rounds of argument and appeal and all but ensures that the trial won’t begin before the election. As with the other DOJ case, time is of the essence for Smith, because Trump, if reelected, could shut down a case upon taking office in January 2025.

David A. Graham: Trump attempted a brazen, dead-serious attack on American democracy

How grave is the allegation?
This case rivals the Fulton County one in importance. It is narrower, focusing just on Trump and a few key elements of the paperwork coup, but the symbolic weight of the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting an attempt to subvert the American election system is heavy.

How plausible is a guilty verdict?
It’s very hard to say. Smith avoided some of the more unconventional potential charges, including aiding insurrection, and everyone watched much of the alleged crime unfold in public in real time, but no precedent exists for a case like this, with a defendant like this.

Additionally …

In more than 30 states, cases were filed over whether Trump should be thrown off the 2024 ballot under a novel legal theory about the Fourteenth Amendment. Proponents, including J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe in The Atlantic, argued that the former president is ineligible to serve again under a clause that disqualifies anyone who took an oath defending the Constitution and then subsequently participated in a rebellion or an insurrection. They said that Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election and his incitement of the January 6 riot meet the criteria.

When?
Authorities in several states ruled that Trump should be removed from the ballot, and the former president appealed to the Supreme Court. The justices ruled unanimously on March 4 that states could not remove Trump from the ballot. The conservative majority (over strenuous liberal objections) also closed the door on a post-election disqualification by Congress without specific legislation.

How grave is the allegation?
In a sense, the claim made here was even graver than the criminal election-subversion cases filed against Trump by the U.S. Department of Justice and in Fulton County, Georgia, because neither of those cases alleges insurrection or rebellion. But the stakes were also much different—rather than criminal conviction, they concern the ability to serve as president.

What happens next?
The question of disqualification seems to now be closed, with Trump set to appear on the ballot in every state.

The Cases Against Trump: A Guide (2024)
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