The 2024 Republican presidential front-runner is faced with 91 state and federal charges one year from Election Day. After a series of failed attempts to capture the criminal conviction of Donald Trump, Democrats have charged their primary political opponent with nearly 100 crimes to thwart the former president’s triumphant return to the Oval Office. Here’s a “who’s who” of the key players in the Democrats’ latest crusade to achieve the top item on their policy agenda.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was the first prosecutor to land the coveted indictment of Democrats’ Public Enemy No. 1. In April, the New York prosecutor unveiled a 34-count indictment against Trump, carrying a maximum 136-year prison sentence. The charges stem from 2016 hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels in a case prosecutors previously declined to pursue.
The Manhattan charges, however, marked the fulfillment of a campaign promise Bragg made two years ago to prosecute the former president. Prosecuting Trump was apparently the top issue of his platform in 2021.
“Bragg often reminded voters on the campaign trail that he helped sue the Trump administration ‘more than a hundred times’ as a deputy in the New York state attorney general’s office,” Reuters reported that year.
The 50-year-old prosecutor’s own supporters pointed to his ability to pursue Trump in court as a reason to back him. The New York Times reported on Bragg’s endorsement from a former U.S. attorney in July 2021.
“Preet Bharara, a former United States attorney in Manhattan who supervised Mr. Bragg and endorsed his candidacy, said Mr. Bragg had varied experience as a prosecutor, and that his work on white-collar crime and public corruption cases could come into play in the investigation into Mr. Trump,” the Times read.
Bragg was also promoted to his current office with financial support from left-wing billionaire financier George Soros. The super PAC backed by Soros, Color of Change, pledged to bankroll Bragg’s campaign with a seven-figure sum in the spring of 2021. Soon after the cash infusion, the committee pulled back $500,000 of the donation when Bragg faced allegations of sexual misconduct of his own.
Bragg’s record in New York, meanwhile, has been one of unleashed crime while prosecutors pursue politicized investigations against the most popular Republican in the country. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last year, Soros admitted to backing candidates who promised to be soft on crime, branded as “reform prosecutors.” Bragg has held up to the pledge by prioritizing Trump instead of dangerous criminals. According to The New York Times, major crime spiked 22 percent during Bragg’s first year in office.
While Bragg pursues criminal charges against the former president, New York Attorney General Letitia James has Trump in civil court on allegations of fraud. In September last year, the attorney general filed a $250 million fraud suit with the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, accusing the former president of inflating corporate assets to obtain financial benefits.
“We found that Mr. Trump, his children, and the corporation used more than 200 false asset valuations over a 10-year period,” said James at a press conference.
James, 65, won in a partial summary judgment a year later, and in October, the trial began after the judge found the Trump family, including Trump himself, liable for fraud. The judge in the case ordered the termination of Trump’s New York business license and will now examine charges by James to determine additional penalties. In October, an appeals court put a hold on the judge’s mandate to dissolve Trump’s business in the state.
The aggressive effort against the Trump family’s New York business empire marks another campaign promise fulfilled by the state attorney general. Similar to Bragg, James ran for office in 2018 on a platform to prosecute the president. When first campaigning for the statewide job five years ago, James railed against the Republican president as “illegitimate” and an “embarrassment.”
“NY Attorney General Letitia James has a long history of fighting Trump and other powerful targets,” headlined an Associated Press profile of James in September.
“Letitia James fixated on Donald Trump as she campaigned for New York attorney general, branding the then-president a ‘con man’ and ‘carnival barker’ and pledging to shine a ‘bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings,'” the AP reported. “Five years later, James is on the verge of disrupting Trump’s real estate empire.”
James was reelected last fall just more than a month after she unveiled the $250 million lawsuit against the Trump family. Now James is on the cusp of capturing Trump’s corporate exile from the Empire State.
The state-friendly judge presiding over James’ civil lawsuit against Trump is a Democrat who held the former president in contempt last year over subpoena violations. Arthur Engoron is a judge in the New York Supreme Court’s 1st Judicial District who ran unopposed for the seat in the 2015 general election.
In September, Judge Engoron devalued the former president’s Mar-a-Lago Florida estate from between $426 million and $612 million, as estimated by the Trumps, to a mere $18 and $28 million.
The stunning devaluation stands in contrast to smaller properties at Palm Beach, which sold for far more. Rush Limbaugh’s former residence, for example, sold for $155 million despite a $51 million appraisal. Mar-a-Lago, meanwhile, is the only property at Palm Beach to face the waterfront on both the ocean and the waterway.
Last month, Engoron also implemented a gag order to prevent Trump from even speaking out against the accusations against him. Trump was fined twice over violations of the gag order for a combined $15,000.
Jack Smith, 54, a veteran prosecutor with years spent at the Justice Department, was appointed last November to lead two of the federal efforts seeking Trump’s conviction. Now special counsel in a pair of cases prosecuting Democrats’ top political opponent, Smith was previously head of the DOJ public integrity unit from 2010 to 2015. Among his most notable cases was the prosecution of former Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell, whom the Supreme Court exonerated of a bribery conviction in 2016. Smith was also involved in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax scandal targeting conservative nonprofits.
Now Smith is spearheading the federal government’s criminal efforts against Trump regarding classified documents and the events related to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. In June, Trump was indicted with 37 counts of mishandling classified information, with three more charges handed down in the case about two months later. Smith indicted Trump with an additional four charges in a separate case this summer over objections to electoral certification, such as Democrats have made for decades.
Smith’s team at the Justice Department could not have landed a more friendly judge in the government’s Jan. 6 case against Trump than U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan. An activist judge with an obvious animus against the former president and his supporters, the Obama appointee was assigned to preside over the politically fraught Jan. 6 case after building a reputation as “a tough punisher of Capitol rioters.”
“Other judges typically have handed down sentences that are more lenient than those requested by prosecutors,” the AP reported. “Chutkan, however, has matched or exceeded prosecutors’ recommendations in 19 of her 38 sentences. In four of those cases, prosecutors weren’t seeking any jail time at all.”
When Trump complained the federal charges against him amounted to election interference by the DOJ, Chutkan shrugged off the accusations, saying, “That’s how it has to be.” Chutkan previously condemned comparisons between the Capitol turmoil and the far-left riots that characterized the summer of 2020 in other rulings of pro-Trump demonstrators. The fiery riots, she claimed, were actually “the actions of people protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights.” Chutkan said comparisons between the two “ignore a very real danger that the Jan. 6 riot posed to the foundation of our democracy.”
In September, Chutkan predictably denied Trump’s request to recuse herself from the Jan. 6 trial. In October, Chutkan handed down another gag order to prevent the president from speaking publicly and openly about the case. On Nov. 1, Chutkan handed down an order allowing Smith’s team to conceal evidence from Trump’s attorneys that the DOJ has identified as “classified.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia upset a six-term incumbent when she defeated her former boss, Paul Howard, three years ago. Willis, who beat Howard in the primary runoff, carried the general election unopposed after no Republicans qualified for the November contest.
Willis’ investigation of Trump and the former president’s campaign team was one of her first acts in office and will define her legacy. In August, the DA for Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, charged Trump with 13 counts related to the former president’s efforts to protest aspects of the 2020 election. The Georgia prosecutor also indicted 18 Trump allies, several of whom have taken plea deals. Trump adviser Jeffrey Clark, however, filed a motion on Oct. 31 to dismiss the “massive and grotesque abuse of prosecutorial power.”
A September report from The Federalist revealed Willis possesses evidence exonerating Georgia’s alternate electors but continues to pursue criminal convictions anyway.