After Donald Trump’s private residence at his Palm Beach club was raided by the FBI, his defenders immediately jumped to point out how unprecedented it was for the feds to search the home of a former U.S. president. And it’s true—it definitely was unprecedented! Though not because, as Trump’s stooges claimed, the whole thing was some kind of politically motivated witch hunt. Rather, no president in history has been as corrupt as Donald Trump—including the one who was forced to resign in disgrace. Even before the FBI came a-knocking, the 45th president was up to his neck in legal woes; in fact, it’s likely gotten to the point where you can’t even keep track of all the criminal investigations, civil lawsuits, and other reasons Trump’s lawyers should just move into Mar-a-Lago so that they can brief him daily over breakfast re: all the ways he’s f–ked.
Unfortunately, for the rest of the public, it’s not as easy to keep track, and you might find yourself confused between, say, the New York attorney general’s investigation into the Trump Organization and the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe, the latter of which is expected to lead to a guilty plea from the company’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg. You might also struggle to keep straight the subjects of the various federal investigations, which range from Trump’s plot to overturn the election to Trump’s decision to take classified government documents to his home.
Which is why, as a public service, we’ve put together this handy-dandy guide.
The Classified-Documents Investigation
Though you presumably don’t need reminding, on August 8, 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s residence at his for-profit Florida club, where they removed 11 boxes of classified documents, including some marked top secret. Trump’s defenders lost their minds over this, insisting that the government should have simply subpoenaed him or just asked him nicely to return what wasn’t his to keep. Of course, that’s exactly what the feds had initially tried to do. Back in January, the National Archives had removed 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago, which also included those of the top secret variety. Several months later, the Justice Department, believing that Trump hadn’t actually turned over everything he was supposed to, issued a subpoena for the additional documents. In June, a lawyer for the former president said in a written statement that all classified material had been returned to the government. Which, of course, turned out to be a lie, hence the need for the raid.
Then, after a judge unsealed the search warrant, we learned that the government wasn’t looking for West Wing tchotchkes and pilfered office supplies, but rather had probable cause to believe that the 45th president had engaged in obstruction of justice, mishandled government records, and violated the Espionage Act. The night before the warrant was unsealed, The Washington Post reported that “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence.” The New York Times revealed this week that the FBI had interviewed Trump’s White House counsel and deputy counsel concerning the documents. While it’s not clear what will happen next, an indictment is obviously a strong possibility. If found guilty of violating the statutes cited in the warrant, Trump could go to prison for decades.
Naturally, he’s insisted he did nothing wrong and that people take classified documents all the time.
The Justice Department’s Criminal Investigation of January 6 and the Plot to Overturn the Election
With all the hubbub surrounding the raid on Trump’s home and the revelation that he refused to return top secret documents related to grave matters of national security, it’s easy to forget that Trump tried extremely hard to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and, when that didn’t go his way, incited a violent insurrection that left multiple people dead. But he did! In July, we learned that, according to The Washington Post, the Justice Department was investigating Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe and that prosecutors interviewing witnesses before a grand jury had asked “hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on [Mike] Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states.”
Crucial witnesses whom we know about have thus far included Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short and his former chief legal counsel Greg Jacob, both of whom have significant insight into Trump’s plot to overturn the election. (Earlier this month, in what ABC News called a “dramatic escalation in the Justice Department’s investigation” of the plot to overturn the 2020 election and the riot that followed, the department subpoenaed Pat Cipollone, Trump’s former White House counsel, who attended several meetings in the run-up to January 6 in which the ex-president and his goons discussed how to keep Trump in power. Cipollone also knew of Trump’s desire to seize voting machines, which he described as “a terrible idea for the country,” “not how we do things in the United States,” and something the administration had “no legal authority” to do.)
While Trump has—you guessed it—claimed he did nothing wrong, his lawyers are reportedly “planning for criminal charges.” According to Rolling Stone, the fear of prosecution ramped up after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly before the January 6 committee, at which point she told the panel that Trump had been informed that some of his supporters who’d gathered in DC on the day of the riot were armed, but demanded they be allowed in to hear his “Stop the Steal” speech anyway; that Trump assaulted a Secret Service agent after being told he couldn’t march to the Capitol himself; and that the 45th president apparently believed VP Pence “deserved” the chants calling for his hanging.
The Georgia Criminal Investigation
Remember when, as part of his plot to overturn the election, Trump made a call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and demanded that Raffensperger “find” him the number of votes necessary to beat Joe Biden, saying, “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” before threatening the local official over refusing his request? Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has been investigating that and more, impaneling a special grand jury to hear evidence and potentially issue indictments. On Monday, a lawyer for Rudy Giuliani said that he’d been informed that the former mayor turned Trump attorney was a target of the investigation, while longtime Trump defender Lindsey Graham, who called Raffensperger in November 2020 to ask if he had the power to throw out mail-in ballots in certain counties, was ordered by a judge to testify before the grand jury. Speaking to The New York Times, attorney Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee for Trump’s first impeachment, said he believed the Giuliani news was extremely bad for Trump. “There is no way Giuliani is a target of the DA’s investigation and Trump does not end up as one,” Eisen said.
We probably don’t have to tell you that Trump swears he did nothing wrong here, having described his Raffensperger call as absolutely “PERFECT” in May.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Criminal Case Against the Trump Organization, Etc.
In February, Trump got a rare bit of good news on the legal front when the veteran prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of the former president’s business practices abruptly resigned, reportedly because their new boss, Alvin Bragg, had doubts about taking the case to court. Of course, according to one of those attorneys, Mark Pomerantz, that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Trump didn’t engage in criminal activity, as Pomerantz believes he most certainly did, writing in his resignation letter that the former president was “guilty of numerous felony violations” and that it was a major “failure of justice” not to hold him accountable. (In his letter addressed to Bragg, Pomerantz added that “no case is perfect,” saying that a fear of losing a trial is not a valid reason to forgo indicting a criminal.)