Donald Trump faces legal challenges well beyond the Capitol riots: Here's what to watch
WASHINGTON – As the Senate Judiciary Committee weighed Merrick Garland's confirmation as attorney general Monday, the fate of former President Donald Trump also looms for the Biden Justice Department.
Federal judge Garland, who last served in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration and was blocked as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, will likely face pointed questions about Trump during his confirmation hearing.
Trump, meanwhile, has lost any "presidential immunity" in a number of legal issues as he returns to life as a private citizen – not only stemming from his speech on Jan. 6 preceding the U.S. Capitol assault, but also regarding his business dealings and defamation cases for comments he made about women who accused him of sexual assault.
As Garland faces senators, here is a refresher on the legal challenges Trump faces:
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been conducting a criminal investigation into Trump and his company’s business dealings, including over alleged hush-money payments made during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump prior to his run for office.
The investigation also extends to Trump’s business. Prosecutors want to obtain years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns, which he never released, breaking tradition with presidential candidates in the past.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to intercede in the long-running legal fight, clearing the way for New York City prosecutors to enforce a grand jury subpoena for his tax records.
The high court's decision to deny a stay sought by Trump is a brutal defeat after years of trying to keep his tax returns under wraps.
Because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, the development does not mean Trump's financial records will become public.
Georgia election fraud investigation
Prosecutors in Georgia have opened an investigation into Trump’s attempt to pressure election officials in the state to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election, which Biden won by a margin of more than 11,000 votes.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes," Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a Jan. 2 phone call.
Earlier this month prosecutors said they were investigating the solicitation of election fraud, false statements, conspiracy, oath of office violations, racketeering and violence associated with threats to the election process.
Trump had repeatedly denigrated Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp over social media, both Republicans, for their refusal to go along with his wishes. Trump claimed without evidence that there was widespread voter fraud in battleground states he lost, including Georgia.
Capitol riot lawsuits
The NAACP and Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi have sued Trump, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, and right-wing extremist groups for what they say was an incitement to violence during the riot on the Capitol.
A statement by the NAACP quotes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in his speech following Trump’s acquittal this month in the Senate impeachment trial over the same issue: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”
“The coup attempt was a coordinated, months-long attempt to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election, and to disenfranchise millions of ballots that were legally cast by African-American voters,” the NAACP statement reads.
Similar to the case made by the House impeachment managers earlier this month, the lawsuit bases its claim on the actions made by Trump in the weeks and months leading up to the riot, which the suit says had a goal of stopping Congress from certifying election results. Trump’s defense team said he was exercising his right to political speech and Trump was acquitted.
Inquiry into potential fraud
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether Trump and his company committed tax fraud, in a case that began in 2019 after Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen alleged that Trump had lied in disclosures about his assets.
Trump’s son, Eric Trump, took part in an interview last year with prosecutors as part of the investigation after a judge ordered him to appear. A court has also ruled that the Trump Organization must turn over financial documents to James.
Of particular interest is a property in Westchester County, New York.
Defamation cases related to sexual assault claims
Two women have sued Trump for defamation based on his public reaction and denials of their claims of sexual assault against him, which span from the mid-1990s.
Writer E. Jean Carroll and former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos both accused Trump of unwanted sexual contact.
USA TODAY investigation: 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Here's what their stories have in common.
Carroll, who claimed Trump raped her in the mid-1990s, brought a defamation case against Trump in 2019 after he allegedly slandered her in denying her claims. The U.S. Department of Justice attempted to intervene in the case, but it was blocked by a federal judge who ruled that Trump's comments about Carroll "have no relationship to the official business of the United States."
Zervos said her incident with Trump also happened as part of a job interview, which Trump had scheduled in his private hotel room, and included forced kissing and groping. She sued Trump for defamation in 2017 after Trump called her a liar when she came forward during his first campaign for president.
The attorney general of Washington, D.C., Karl Racine, brought a lawsuit that accused Trump and his inaugural committee of misusing funds to line Trump’s pockets by overpaying for the use of the Trump Hotel.
"District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies," Racine said in a statement last year. "In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business."
The Trump International Hotel said that Racine's claims were false and misleading and that the rates charged to the committee were not inflated.
Cohen sues for legal fees
Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney, claimed Trump and his company had agreed to pay for his legal bills as he became a focus of investigations by New York City prosecutors and the Russia special counsel's office during the first half of Trump's presidency.
But Cohen said the Trump Organization abruptly stopped paying after he turned on the president and began telling friends and family he would cooperate with prosecutors. His legal bills totaled nearly $2 million.
Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, brought a case against the former president claiming that he and other relatives cheated her out of a family inheritance. Mary Trump is the author of a tell-all book on the Trump family, portraying it as dysfunctional and plagued by a focus on backstabbing and money.
Trump, his brother Robert, and sister, former federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, portrayed themselves as Mary Trump's protectors while secretly taking her share of minority interests in the family's extensive real estate holdings, according to Mary Trump's lawsuit. Robert Trump died in August.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, Kristine Phillips