All Presidents get sued, and yet, President Trump’s post-presidency litigation risk stands out. His unusual historical practices are under new scrutiny. For instance, his personal charity, The Trump Foundation, was dissolved by court order due to ongoing political actions, self-dealing, and violations of fiduciary duties. Further, criminal charges may still stem from the Trump Foundation investigation. President Trump faces civil and criminal litigation risk related to his official abuses as President, his private acts as a citizen, and the practices of the Trump Organization.
To date, the Department of Justice and executive privilege have shielded Trump from these historic abuses. He relies upon DOJ resources and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) to defend against a libel charge related to a claim that he sexually assaulted a journalist in the mid-1990s. He, and members of his family, were shielded from a D.C. Circuit ruling that dismissed a case alleging violations of the Presidential Records related to secretive, unobserved meetings with Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salman, and Kim Jong-Un. But even these broad uses of executive powers have failed to protect Trump and his associates.
Those who are not protected by executive powers — his close associates — have faced criminal consequences: his personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress; his political advisor Roger Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation; his first National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to making a false statement to the FBI; his former chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested and charged with fraud; and, his 2016 campaign chair was convicted of fraud related to interfering with the Ukrainian elections. For defense attorneys’ revenues, his staff and associates really are ‘the best people.’
Throughout his career, Donald Trump has leaned-in to the court, litigating contracts and making use of bankruptcy laws. But the risks facing a post-presidentcy Trump are an order of magnitude more significant than arguing with piano vendors over $100,000 or silencing a porn star with $130,000. The potential claims amount to many millions in tax liabilities and criminal charges. And while the President may be able to pardon himself and his family for federal criminal charges, he remains at risk for civil claims and state criminal prosecution. The description below captures some of the major claims Trump and his family currently face and are likely to confront in the future.
President Trump’s taxes are the subject of an ongoing Internal Revenue Service investigation, including a $72.9 million refund Trump received.
New York State Investigations into Taxes and Business Practices
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is pursuing President Trump’s tax records, arguing his case in October to the Supreme Court for the second time. Though Vance has not indicted Trump, and details on the inquiry are closely held, “filings by prosecutors suggest they are looking at potential crimes that include tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.”
Racketeering Claim Against The Trump Organization
Doe v. Trump is a suit against President Trump and his children (Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr.) which claims that the Trumps participated in a fraud with the multi-level marketing firm ACN Opportunity. The Trumps face tens of millions of dollars in potential damages.
2016 Inauguration Funding
The S.D.N.Y. subpoenaed records of the Trump Inaugural Committee, to investigate foreign donations to the committee. Potential charges include violations of the Federal Election Laws, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
Other Potential 2020 State Actions Against President Trump
President Trump’s 2020 behavior could inspire numerous state claims. His advocacy that citizens vote by mail and in person, as well his constant undermining of mailed ballots could open him to charges of interfering with state elections. He could face criminal fraud charges over the way he dangerously downplayed the danger of the coronavirus and encouraged citizens to engage in risky behavior. Should he in fact call upon his Proud Boys to take action after the election, he could face charges of conspiracy and inciting violence.
(Table of active litigation against President Trump, Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and The Trump Organization).