Trump could face charges as states expand criminal investigations: NPR

Former President Donald Trump faces a number of legal issues now that he is no longer in office. There are at least two state-level investigations related to Trump – one in New York, the other in Georgia.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now that he is no longer in office, Donald Trump could find himself facing criminal charges in several cases. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is expanding an ongoing investigation into Trump with a focus on potential financial crimes at Trump’s many business ventures, and prosecutors in Georgia have also opened a criminal investigation. This one centers on that now infamous phone call Trump made to Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the call in which Trump asked Raffensperger to find enough voice to reverse his electoral defeat in Georgia.

Andrea Bernstein of the WNYC member station in New York has followed these stories and is joining us now. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BY LINE: Hey. Great to talk to you.

MARTIN: So tell us about New York. What do we know about these investigations into Trump’s companies?

BERNSTEIN: So the most important case, in terms of Trump’s affairs right now, the most potentially serious, is the Manhattan district attorney’s case. This is the case where the DA has been trying to get Trump’s tax returns for years, and even though this case is now before the United States Supreme Court for the second time, as far as we know, the investigation is quite advanced. Plus, because Trump tried to prevent Vance from getting his records, there is a lot on the public record.

So we know the prosecutor is examining Trump, his family, and his business for possible banking, insurance, or tax fraud, including crimes that could result in a significant prison sentence. So although the Supreme Court ruled seven to two against Trump the first time around, the former president came back with a fresh demand. But most experts believe that ultimately Vance will get the records he’s looking for, and if that happens and Vance decides he believes crimes have been committed, there could be indictments this year. .

MARTIN: It’s New York. What about southern Georgia? What’s going on there with his investigations?

BERNSTEIN: We just learned this week that Georgian prosecutors are investigating whether Trump broke election laws when he embarked on an all-out campaign to change the results in Georgia. So while this case is just getting started, it could actually unfold quite quickly as it would be simpler than the complex financial crimes that the Manhattan District Attorney is looking at. Next, the New York attorney general investigates whether Trump has paid the proper New York state taxes. In addition, the District of Columbia AG is investigating whether Trump’s inaugural committee broke charitable laws by paying large sums to Trump’s hotel. And there are several civil suits, so there is a lot of litigation.

MARTIN: It’s a lot of litigation. Now that Trump is no longer the sitting president, is that changing the speed of these investigations or perhaps the course they are taking?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. So in several cases he has argued so far that his status as president means that he deserves special treatment, that he can withhold files, testimony and generally thwart investigations. And in some of the investigations, the US Department of Justice even intervened, even though it was Trump’s private actions. That’s why many of these cases have taken so long, but now Trump doesn’t have those extra tools. He’s just an ordinary citizen. So while he can and maintains that the investigations are politically motivated, he must now defend himself like everyone else.

MARTIN: Some of Trump’s closest allies are also under investigation. I think of Rudy Giuliani. What is the status of this?

BERNSTEIN: Right. Yeah. So we just learned this week that this is a case that dates back to the events surrounding Trump’s first impeachment, when Giuliani was trying to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Prosecutors examined whether, when Giuliani did this, he was breaking the law by representing Ukrainian business interests without declaring it. We just learned from the New York Times that federal prosecutors in New York have been searching for Giuliani’s electronic files since last summer. And if this case goes ahead, we might find out more not only about Giuliani, but what Trump knew about all of it as well.

MARTIN: Andrea Bernstein from WNYC, thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

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Mark M. Gagnon