What to know about Trump’s legal issues

Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings during jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP)

By Isabel Soisson

April 18, 2024

Over the past year, former president Donald Trump has become the center of not one, not two, not three, but four criminal investigations, at both the state and federal level.

The 2024 Republican presidential nominee faces 91 charges across the four cases he’s been indicted in and has pleaded not guilty to all of them.

These charges are the first time a president has been indicted in the over two centuries the United States has existed. Trump has denied wrongdoing in each case and insisted, despite mountains of evidence, that all of the charges are “fake.”

Here’s a breakdown of everything the former president has been charged with and where all of the cases stand:

Manhattan Criminal Case

In April 2023, Trump was indicted over allegations that he made hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual encounter with him.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney at the time, paid $130,000 to Daniels in Oct. 2016 to keep her quiet about her affair with Trump ahead of the November election, according to prosecutors. Once elected, prosecutors say Trump reimbursed Cohen in a series of installment payments processed by Trump’s company, which prosecutors argue violates New York state law because the payments were “fraudulently disguised” as legal expenses.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his prosecutors argue that by buying Daniels’ silence, Trump avoided a possible sex scandal in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

Cohen has since turned against his former employer and is a star witness for the prosecution. He’s expected to testify that Trump directed the hush money arrangement.

Prosecutors also have evidence of other hush money payments that Trump allegedly arranged to cover up damaging stories in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to Politico. This suggests a “coordinated effort to help his campaign rather than merely to avoid personal embarrassment,” the publication notes.

This trial began on Monday, marking the first time an American president has faced criminal charges in court. Jury selection is currently ongoing in the trial.

Election Inquiry in Georgia

In August, Trump was criminally charged in the state of Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state.

Trump has been charged with several counts in this case, including a count of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which calls for a minimum sentence of at least five years in prison and a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.

Over a dozen others have also been indicted by an Atlanta grand jury in this case, all of whom were similarly charged with RICO violations. Trump, along with these co-conspirators, is accused of orchestrating a “criminal enterprise” to reverse the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

This indictment follows a two-and-a-half year investigation spearheaded by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Willis’ investigation began after news broke of Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes for him.

The indictment alleges that Trump and several co-defendants created false Electoral College documents and recruited individuals to convene and cast false Electoral College votes at the Georgia State Capitol in Fulton County on Dec. 4, 2020. It also alleges that the former president harassed election officials, workers, and volunteers.

Eight of the people who falsely claimed to be the state’s presidential electors for Trump have taken immunity deals and have agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.

Last month, Willis accepted the resignation of Nathan Wade, her top special prosecutor in the case and a man with whom she had a romantic relationship. Wade’s resignation came hours after Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee made it a condition of allowing Willis herself to stay on the case.

Though appeals from Trump’s team are expected, prosecutors are now turning their attention back to moving this case toward trial, which does not yet have a start date.

In November, the DA’s office had asked that the trial begin on Aug. 5, but Trump’s lawyers have asked that the trial be scheduled for after November’s election. They’ve also said that if the former president wins reelection later this year, the trial would need to take place after he’s served his term.

Jan. 6 and 2020 Election Inquiry

In addition to the Georgia charges revolving around Trump’s actions to subvert the 2020 election results, there’s also the federal inquiry into what happened in the two months between Election Day 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump schemed to overturn his loss in the presidential election.

Special Counsel Jack Smith is arguing that during that time, Trump “mounted a wide-ranging campaign to subvert Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.”

In a 45-page indictment, Smith laid out a mountain of evidence showing that Trump and his allies spread false information about voter fraud, urged Republican state officials to undermine the results of the election, assembled false electors, and pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to “unilaterally toss out the legitimate results.”

These actions culminated, prosecutors argue, in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when an insurrection broke out at the US Capitol in Washington D.C., resulting in five deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The former president has been indicted and charged with:

  1. one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by “using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat” the government’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying presidential election results;
  2. two felony counts (including one conspiracy count) of obstructing an official proceeding, related to the disruption of Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results on Jan. 6; and
  3. one felony count of conspiracy to deprive Americans citizens of their right to vote and have their vote counted.

If Trump wins November’s election, he could, in theory, pardon himself for the crimes he’s accused of in this case since it is a federal indictment.

In February, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan postponed the trial–which had been scheduled to begin on March 4–until the Supreme Court resolves the question of Trump’s presidential immunity, which it is expected to do next week.

Classified Documents Case

In June of 2023, Trump was indicted and charged over his mishandling of classified documents that he kept after leaving office.

Smith, who is also overseeing the investigation in this case, alleges that Trump illegally left the White House with classified information “regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attacks; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”

In this case, the former president has been charged with nearly three dozen felony counts of willful retention of national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to retain records containing sensitive national security information. He’s also been charged with several counts of obstruction-related crimes, and two felony counts of making false statements in this case.

Trump’s own statements, one of which was caught on tape, indicate that he knew he was not authorized to retain the classified material found in his Mar-a-Lago home.

While Trump’s legal team is preoccupied with his hush money case in Manhattan, work on this case has “grinded to a near-total halt” according to CNN. The classified documents case has been stalled in a Florida federal court, and Trump’s team has “dramatically reduced the amount of time they’ve spent working on the criminal case over the last six weeks.”

A trial date has yet to be set. Trump’s legal team has requested additional time to prepare for the trial, but Special Counsel Jack Smith told the federal judge overseeing the case on Sunday to reject these requests.

Like the federal election interference case, Trump could pardon himself of the charges leveled against him in this case should he be elected in November, as this is also a federal indictment.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.



Local News

Related Stories
Share This