A week of legal setbacks for Trump in Washington, New York
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump faced one legal setback after another this week as a judge ruled he must sit for a deposition in New York to answer questions about his business practices, his accounting firm declared his financials unreliable, another judge dismissed his efforts to dismiss conspiracy charges and the National Archives confirmed he brought classified information to Florida as he left the House White.
Whatever happens, said Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a Washington attorney who has been following the investigations, “I think the weeks are going to get worse for him.”
Here is an overview of the wave of developments:
NATIONAL ARCHIVES SAYS TRUMP BROUGHT CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS TO MAR-A-LAGO
In a Friday letter, the National Archives and Records Administration confirmed that the classified information was found in 15 boxes of White House documents that Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago and turned over last month.
The National Archives “have identified items marked as classified national security information in the boxes” and “have been in communication with the Department of Justice,” they wrote in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Archives also confirmed that it received paper documents that were torn up by Trump – some taped together and some left in pieces – and that some White House staff conducted official business using accounts personal.
While federal law prohibits the movement of classified documents to unauthorized locations, sitting presidents have broad classification authority. The Justice Department and FBI have not indicated they will pursue a case.
But David Laufman, the former head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section who oversaw the investigation of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state, tweeted: “It’s hard to imagine @DOJNatSec not conducting a criminal investigation. investigating Trump’s classified document stash at Mar-a-Lago.
“Even if the DOJ ultimately drops the criminal charges, an investigation is clearly warranted,” he said.
While the Presidential Records Act which oversees the retention of a president’s documents is widely considered to have few enforcement mechanisms, David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said: “Taking classified documents is a ball of fire. entirely different wax. And as we’ve seen in the past, that’s what leads to actual charges being laid.
Regardless of the legal risk, the revelation also exposes Trump to accusations of hypocrisy given his relentless attacks on Clinton, his Democratic opponent during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In a statement late Friday, Trump said, “The National Archives did not ‘find anything’, they received, upon request, presidential records in an ordinary, routine process.”
“If it was anyone other than ‘Trump’, there would be no story here,” he said.
JUDGE REFUSED TO PROCEED AGAINST TRUMP DURING JAN. 6 ATTACK
A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Friday rejected Trump’s efforts to dismiss conspiracy lawsuits filed by Democratic lawmakers and police accusing him of being personally responsible for the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
US District Court Judge Amit Mehta says Trump’s remarks at a rally held before the attack were likely ‘incitement not protected by the First Amendment’ and ‘plausibly’ could have led to what happened.
Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” and warned that if they didn’t “you won’t have a country.”
“Only in the most extraordinary of circumstances could a court fail to recognize that the First Amendment protects a president’s speech,” Mehta wrote. “But the court thinks that is the case.”
The plaintiffs seek damages for physical and emotional injuries they suffered during the insurgency, which Trump has denied instigating.
JUDGE SAYS TRUMP MUST TESTIFY IN NEW YORK TRADE PRACTICES TRIAL
On Thursday, a New York judge ruled that Trump must answer questions under oath in the state’s civil investigation into its business practices.
Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump and his two oldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., to comply with subpoenas issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James and sit for depositions within 21 days. Lawyers for James said they uncovered evidence that Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” appraisals of its golf courses, skyscrapers and other properties to secure loans and tax benefits.
Trump’s attorneys had argued that his testimony could be used against him in the criminal investigation into the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer that is overseen by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
It is almost certain that the decision will be appealed by Trump’s lawyers. But if he’s confirmed, it might force him to decide whether to answer questions, risk perjuring oneself whether he is lying or remaining silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — something he has criticized others for doing in the past.
“THERE IS NO CASE!” Trump said in a statement responding to the ruling.
While many legal experts agree the case poses a serious risk to Trump, attorneys who have reviewed the allegations said it was not a slam dunk for her and James. will have to face two major obstacles if it sues alleging fraud: proving both an intent to deceive and proving that the banks that lent Trump money were in fact duped.
ACCOUNTING FIRM SAYS TRUMP’S FINANCIAL STATEMENTS ARE NOT RELIABLE
In a letter made public in a court filing on Mondaythe accounting firm that prepared Trump’s annual financial statements said the documents “should no longer be relied upon” after James’ office alleged they routinely misrepresented the value of Trump’s assets.
In the letter to the attorney for the Trump Organization, Mazars USA LLP advised the company to advise anyone who received the documents not to use them to assess the financial health of the company and the former President. The company also said it was cutting ties with Trump, its most high-profile client.
Michael Conway, who served as House Judiciary Committee counsel in the impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon, wrote in an NBC News op-ed on Thursday that “Mazars’ disavowal of Trump’s financial statements is a turning point in the Attorney General’s investigation. The independent accountants who prepared the statements are no longer defending them and will likely have to testify why they changed their minds.
Trump gave his statement of financial position — an annual overview of his holdings that had been prepared by Mazars based on records from the Trump Organization — to banks, including Deutsche Bank, to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars of loans. Mazars’ announcement raises questions about whether other banks would be comfortable lending money to the Trump Organization.
JUDGE ORDERS EX-TRUMP ORGANIZATION’S CFO TO BE SEATED TO FILE ON INAUGURAL COMMITTEE EXPENSES
In a ruling on Thursday, a judge said she would allow Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of Trump’s firm, to sit for limited deposition in a lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office. of the District of Columbia who accuses Trump’s inaugural committee of overspending. at the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue to enrich the former president’s family.
Democratic Attorney General Karl Racine is suing the Trump Organization and the committee that organized Trump’s inauguration, alleging they misused nonprofit funds and coordinated with Trump International Hotel management and officials. members of the Trump family to hold events, including spending more than $1. million to reserve a ballroom at the hotel. Racine said one of the event organizers raised concerns about the awards with Trump, Ivanka Trump and Rick Gates, a senior campaign official at the time.
The case is due to go to trial in September.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has previously charged Weisselberg and the Trump Organization with tax evasion, alleging he collected more than $1.7 million in informal compensation. DC’s decision puts additional pressure on Weisselberg, who has pleaded not guilty.
BIDEN ORDERS TRUMP LOGS OF WHITE HOUSE VISITORS TURNED TO JAN. 6 COMMITTEE
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ordered the release visitors to Trump’s White House log on to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, once again dismissing Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
The files contain information about the appointments of those authorized to enter the White House on the day of the insurrection.
The committee obtained tens of thousands of documents to investigate Trump’s actions on January 6, when he waited hours to tell his supporters to stop the violence and leave the Capitol. Investigators are also interested in organizing and financing a rally in Washington on the morning of the riot. Among the unanswered questions is how well the rally organizers coordinated with White House officials.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department remains committed to “holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at all levels, accountable under the law, whether they were present that day or otherwise be criminally responsible for the aggression against our democracy”.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington.