Since leaving the White House, Donald Trump has continued to face a cloud of lawsuits and investigations, which could frustrate his hopes to win back the presidency in 2024.
On 30 March, one of those investigations took a major step forward when a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Mr Trump on criminal charges over the hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 presidential election.
On 4 April 2023, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court to a slew of criminal charges – making him the first current or former US president to ever be charged with a crime.
Of course, this is nothing new for the real estate billionaire.
Lawsuits and investigations hung over Mr Trump throughout his business career and then his political one, including actions like the bombshell $250m lawsuit from New York attorney general Letitia James against Mr Trump and three of his children for a host of allegedly fraudulent business practices, a suit which joins an estimated 4,000 cases Mr Trump has faced in his lifetime.
Things haven’t only gotten more complicated now that he’s a private citizen without the backing of the Justice Department. No former president has ever been indicted for criminal conduct.
The usually blustery ex-president may finally be feeling the heat, after reportedly telling an associate that since leaving office, he’s worried people across the country are going to be “suing me for the rest of my life.”
Here’s what you need to know about all the major investigations and lawsuits against Donald Trump.
The Capitol Riots and the 2020 Election
The president faces a number of big lawsuits relating to his conduct during the 2020 election — and especially on 6 January, the day a mob of pro-Trump supporters attacked the Capitol after a fiery speech from the recently defeated president.
In February of 2021, congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, sued the president for allegedly inciting the riot, alongside his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani and right-wing extremist groups. In March of that year, California Democrat Eric Swalwell filed a similar suit, which also included Donald Trump Jr, the ex-president’s son, and Alabama congressman Mo Brooks.
Mr Thompson dropped his suit in July 2021 as the January 6 committee process was heating up, but Mr Swalwell’s remains ongoing.
In July 2022, Mr Trump’s lawyers argued he can’t be sued for his alleged role in inciting the Capitol riots, claiming he has immunity from civil lawsuits related to his work as president. They said his January 6 speech urging supporters to march on the Capitol and trashing the 2020 election results was part of “an open discussion and debate about the integrity of the 2020 election.”
Jason Miller, a Trump senior adviser, said in response to the suits that the president “did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th”.
In December of 2022, Mr Trump’s team told a federal appeals court he should be immune from the multiple January 6 civil suits he faces, with attorneys describing Mr Trump’s actions that day as protected activity using the president’s traditional “bully pulpit” to make public commentary.
District of Columbia attorney general Karl Racine has said he is collaborating with federal prosecutors and investigating whether Mr Trump’s role in the riots violated any DC laws, though no charges have been filed. The DC official has launched a suit against militia groups who were present on January 6.
Prosecutors in Atlanta, meanwhile, have focused on Mr Trump’s conduct before the riots, such as a now infamous tape of Mr Trump urging Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensberger, a Republican, to “find” just enough votes to overturn the state’s election results, as well as a scheme to send unauthorised electors to cast Georgia’s Electoral College votes.
Georgia officials haven’t charged Trump with any crimes thus far, but have subpoenaed many of his top advisers.
Mr Miller has described that investigation as a “witch hunt” and “Democrats’ latest attempt to score political points”.
In January of 2023, a grand jury empaneled in the Georgia investigation concluded its work, leaving a potential charging decision in the hands of local prosecutors.
Mr Trump has continued to defend his call with Mr Raffensberger as “perfect” and claim without any basis the Georgia election was stolen.
The Legal Defense Fund is also suing Mr Trump over the election, accusing him, his campaign, and the Republican National Committee of attempting to overturn the election, in violating of the Voting Rights Act and Reconstruction-era Klu Klux Klan act. The NAACP, meanwhile, is also representing members of Congress in their own suit against the president. In November of 2022, a federal court ruled in favour of the NAACP, allowing it to file an amended complaint against the former president.
At the end of March 2021, two Capitol police officers also filed a suit against Mr Trump for damages over the “physical and emotional injuries” they suffered during and after the riot. James Blassingame and Sidney Hemb are seeking compensation in excess of $75,000 plus interest and costs each.
Last February, a federal court found Mr Trump wasn’t immune from litigation in relation to the suits.
Then, over the summer, a federal judge allowed three other lawsuits, from members of the US Capitol and DC Metropolitan police forces, to move forward on similar grounds.
Finally, in January of 2023, Mr Trump was hit with yet another lawsuit, from the longtime partner of former Washington police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after he sustained injuries during January 6.
Also in January, a judge refused to toss a suit from a group of US Capitol police officers who say Mr Trump and others violated federal law and fuelled the January 6 riot.
Federal officials continue investigating Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, though haven’t prosecuted him directly thus far, instead subpoenaing and searching numerous associates.
The January 6 committee recently concluded its work and recomended Mr Trump face criminal charges.
The former president also faces an ongoing suit related to sexual misconduct allegations.
Former Elle magazine columnist E Jean Carroll accuses the president of raping her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s. Mr Trump has said she was “totally lying” about the allegation, prompting a defamation suit.
The DOJ has argued at appeal that Mr Trump shouldn’t face the suit, as his comments were related to his work as a federal employee because they concerned his fitness for office.
The case remains pending in federal appeals court, and Ms Carroll filed a new lawsuit against Mr Trump under a new New York state law, passed in May of 2022, which gives adult victims of sexual assault a one-time opportunity to file civil lawsuits past the normal statute of limitations.
The trial in the defamation suit took place in April, with a verdict being reached in early May. Mr Trump was found liable for the sexual abuse of Ms Carroll — but not rape — and for defaming her.
Just one day later he attacked her again with remarks at a CNN town hall, doubling down on his previous defamatory comments.
An amended lawsuit has now been filed by Ms Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan to include the remarks made on CNN.
“He doubled down on his prior defamatory statements, asserting to an audience all too ready to cheer him on that ‘I never met this woman. I never saw this woman,’ that he did not sexually assault Carroll, and that her account — which had just been validated by a jury of Trump’s peers one day before — was a ‘fake,’ ‘made up story’ invented by a ‘whack job’,” the proposed amended lawsuit states.
“Those statements resulted in enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience on live TV,” the suit adds.
In response to that, Mr Trump took to Truth Social on 23 May to launch a fresh attack on Ms Carroll.
Business and Fraud Cases
The former president’s sprawling business empire is another target for legal action. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance, Jr, a Democrat, led a criminal investigation against Mr Trump for more than a year over hush money payments to women accusing him of affairs during the presidential campaigns, as well as potential fraud relating to allegedly selectively devaluing and inflating the value of his business’s assets for tax and loan benefits.
At the end of 2021, Mr Vance left office, but the investigation continued under his successor Alvin Bragg.
His office has been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made a payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 election.
Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.
Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
The Manhattan DA’s Office began presenting evidence to a grand jury in January, and both Cohen and Ms Daniels testified before the grand jury.
Prosecutors also offered Mr Trump the chance to appear before the grand jury, an indication he was on the brink of indictment.
On 30 March 2023, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the former president on criminal charges – making Mr Trump the first current or former US president to ever face criminal charges.
On 4 April, he was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, pleading not guilty to all charges. The court hearing was not livestreamed following a late-night ruling from the judge.
That night, Mr Trump railed against the charges, Mr Bragg and Judge Merchan in a primetime address at Mar-a-Lago.
This marks the first probe out of all the investigations where Mr Trump has been charged.
Also in January, the Trump Organization was fined $1.6m for tax fraud in what New York prosecutors described as a tax scheme that stretched more than a decade between 2005 and 2018.
Perhaps the most consequential legal threat of all comes from New York Attorney General Letitia James.
On 21 September 2022, she filed a bombshell $250m lawsuit against Mr Trump and three of his children, accusing them of perpetrating “the art of the steal” through a litany of fraudulent business practices the AG’s office has been investigating for years. (Mr Trump has called the suit a politically driven “witch hunt” and denied any wrongdoing.)
The attorney general’s findings have also been referred to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service, Ms James said.
The probe won a major victory when a former federal court judge was appointed to monitor parts of the Trump Organization’s financial activities while the case plays out.
A tentative trial date in the New York suit is set for the beginning of October, according to USA Today.
Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, has previously said all Trump business practices were above board.
“Everything was done in strict compliance with applicable law and under the advice of counsel and tax experts.” he previously told the New York Times. “All applicable taxes were paid and no party received any undue benefit,” he added.
Finally, a group of anonymous people has filed a class-action suit against the Trump family and business arguing they used the Trump brand to scam investors into paying for worthless business ventures. Mr Trump is appealing the suit after previously trying to force it into arbitration.
In March of 2022, Mr Trump and his two sons agreed to be deposed in the suit.
A trial is expected in 2023 or 2024 in a suit alleging Mr Trump used the Celebrity Apprentice TV show to promote multi-level marketing schemes.
Another suit mixed business and politics, much as president Trump and his family did throughout his administration.
Parallel to all of these cases is yet another look into Mr Trump’s business practices.
In October of 2021, the Westchester District Attorney’s Office in New York launched an investigation into financial irregularities surrounding Mr Trump’s golf course in the area, which remained ongoing as of August 2022.
Other Suits and Potential Cases
In addition to suits against the Trump family, there are legal fights within it. Mary Trump, the former president’s niece, has accused Mr Trump of defrauding her of millions of dollars in an inheritance dispute, in a lawsuit that’s been unsucessful thus far.
In November of 2022, Ms Trump asked an appeals court to overturn a state court decision and revive her claim.
The former president is also facing legal action from potential 2024 rivals.
In January of 2023, a Texas man named John Anthony Castro filed a suit against Mr Trump, seeking to have him declared ineligible to seek the White House under the 14th Amendment, which bars those who have participated in insurrections from holding office.
Mr Trump’s real estate empire has attracted other cases as well: a Washington Post analysis found that numerous pending suits relate to his properties, ranging from slip-and-fall lawsuits, to allegations of bed bugs at a Las Vegas hotel, to former and current tenants who say the Trumps schemed them with phoney rent invoices.
There are also a number of simmering legal questions that could turn into future cases, such as suits against those involved in the Capitol riots that could name the ex-president.
Last but not least, outside of Donald Trump’s New York legal troubles, he’s also facing a serious investigation in Florida, where federal officials searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in August as part of an investigation into how numerous classified documents were improperly taken out of the White House.
The Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to investigate how Mr Trump handled the documents, including suggestions that he moved and concealed certain documents as officials sought to retrieve them.
On21 March, 2023, it was reported by ABC News that prosecutors from the special counsel’s office had come to believe that Mr Trump had deliberately misled his own lawyers over the missing papers.
How’s he going to pay for all of this?
While Mr Trump’s business may have taken a $700m hit since he was president, he remains a wealthy man, and a recently formed post-presidential Trump political action committee raised more than $31m, which he could use for his surely enormous legal expenses.
The Trump Organization, congressman Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani, and the RNC did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.
This article was amended on 1 April, 2023 to clarify that the Legal Defense Fund and the NAACP are separate entities, both with suits against Donald Trump, and on 4 April to add new details of the New York state charges against Mr Trump.