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Last Week In Lawfare Land: What To Know About Each Legal Crusade Against Trump

The Federalist has gathered the latest information you need to know about each case of lawfare against former President Trump.

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As former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden prepare to face off again in November, Trump has been hamstrung by lawfare — from Biden’s Department of Justice as well as state and local prosecutors — in the form of both criminal and civil complaints in New York, Georgia, Florida, and Washington D.C. Soon, Trump’s so-called “split-screen” campaign is expected to begin, with the presumptive Republican nominee’s time divided between campaign appearances and, in at least one case, required courtroom appearances.

To help readers keep up with the rapidly unfolding developments in these cases, The Federalist has gathered the latest information you need to know about each case.

Manhattan, New York: Prosecution by DA Alvin Bragg for NDA Payment

How we got here: In this New York state criminal case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged former President Donald Trump in April 2023 with 34 felony charges for alleged falsification of business records. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement in which she agreed not to publicize her claims that she had an affair with Trump (who denies the allegations). Nondisclosure agreements are not illegal, but Bragg claims Trump concealed the payment to help his 2016 election chances and in doing so was concealing a “crime.”

Latest developments: In the weeks before the March 25 trial date, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office presented more than 100,000 pages of potential new evidence in response to a January subpoena by the Trump team. Trump’s legal team contended that the belated disclosures, some of which occurred days before trial, warranted the dismissal of charges or at least a delay in the case.

The new trial is expected to start April 15, which will be the first day of jury selection. On Thursday, April 4, lawyers for former President Trump lost their bid to stay this case until the Supreme Court ruled on the scope of presidential immunity.

Democrat Judge Merchan, a donor to Biden’s campaign and an anti-Trump cause in 2020, also issued a sweeping gag order on President Trump, barring him from publicly discussing the jurors, witnesses, and parties involved in the case. The gag order also extends to remarks about Merchan’s family, even though his daughter works for a digital advertising firm that has counted both Biden and Kamala Harris’ 2020 campaigns and Adam Schiff’s House and Senate campaigns as its clients. Lawyers for President Trump have started the process of petitioning for Judge Merchan’s recusal based on the likelihood that the Court’s impartiality “might reasonably be questioned.” 

On Monday, the Trump team filed an appeal with a New York appeals court to put the gag order on hold and move the venue in which the trial takes place.

Fulton County, Georgia: Prosecution by DA Fani Willis for Questioning Election Results

How we got here: The Georgia state criminal case is helmed by District Attorney Fani Willis and her team of prosecutors — which until recently included Nathan Wade, with whom Willis had an improper romantic relationship. Willis charged Trump in August 2023 with 13 felony counts, including racketeering charges, related to his alleged attempt to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia. President Trump is joined by 18 co-defendants, including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Sidney Powell, and others. Some of President Trump’s co-defendants have reached plea deals; others have petitioned to have the case removed to federal court, each attempt of which has been denied.

Latest developments: Judge Scott McAfee has approved the defense attorneys’ requests to pursue an appeal against his recent decision allowing District Attorney Fani Willis to remain involved in the case despite the alleged conflicts of interest posed by Wade’s presence on the case. Under McAfee’s order, Willis can remain involved in the case under the condition that Wade leaves. Following Judge McAfee’s ruling, Wade resigned from his position. The appeal of Judge McAfee’s decision may further delay the trial in this case.

A trial date has not yet been set, though prosecutors have asked for a trial to begin on Aug. 5, just a few short weeks after the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. On April 4, Judge McAfee rejected arguments by Trump’s lawyers that his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election in Georgia constituted “core political speech” protected by the First Amendment and therefore not subject to prosecution.

Southern District of Florida: Prosecution by Biden DOJ for Handling of Classified Documents

How we got here: In this federal criminal case, special counsel Jack Smith and federal prosecutors with Biden’s Justice Department charged former President Trump in June 2023 with 40 federal charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence. The trial is set to begin on May 20, 2024, though Trump’s lawyers have asked for that date to be pushed back and Judge Aileen Cannon has indicated she will reschedule it.

Latest developments: Judge Aileen Cannon recently rejected an effort by Trump’s lawyers to dismiss the case as a pre-trial matter on the grounds that the records were the personal property of the president and therefore were not subject to classified protection. The order does not appear to preclude the issue at trial. 

Judge Cannon also recently issued an order requesting that special prosecutors and Trump’s legal team submit two versions of proposed jury instructions under two different legal theories. Under one of these legal theories, Judge Cannon seemingly embraced Trump’s legal argument that he had complete authority as president to remove records from the White House. If this legal theory is ultimately adopted by the court, a conviction of former President Trump would be highly unlikely.

Additionally, venue matters: The trial is currently set to take place in Fort Pierce, Florida, in a locality that heavily backed President Trump in the 2020 election. If that remains unchanged, the demographics of the jury pool may result in a pro-Trump courtroom.  

Washington, D.C.:  Prosecution by Biden DOJ for Jan. 6 Speech

How we got here: In this federal criminal case, special counsel Jack Smith and federal prosecutors charged former President Trump in August 2023 with four counts of conspiracy and obstruction related to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021. President Trump’s lawyers have argued that immunity extends to actions taken by a president while acting in his official capacity and that, in any event, the First Amendment protects his right to raise legitimate questions about a questionable election process.

Latest developments: This case is currently stalled while prosecutors and Trump’s legal team await a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether former President Trump is entitled to broad immunity from prosecution for acts allegedly committed while in office. Currently, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case the week of April 22, after which it could issue a ruling by the end of the June term; if the Supreme Court rules against President Trump, a trial could quickly follow beginning in July or August. 

New York: Lawsuit by A.G. Letitia James for Inflating Net Worth

How we got here: In this New York civil fraud case, Democrat Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Trump in September 2022 under a civil fraud statute alleging that he misled banks, insurers, and others about his net worth to obtain loans, although the loans have been paid back and none of the parties involved claimed to have been injured by the deals. Following a no-jury trial, Judge Arthur Engoron issued a decision on Feb. 16, 2024 ordering Trump to pay a $454 million penalty. Trump has appealed this decision.  

Latest developments: President Trump has posted the $175 million bond required to appeal Judge Engoron’s decision. Trump is not required to pay the full $454 million penalty while the case is on appeal, though according to reports the penalty will increase by $111,984 per day simply due to the interest on the penalty. The appeals court plans to hold hearings in September 2024. 


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