A Guide to Pending Civil and Criminal Cases Against Trump

It might seem odd that we don’t hear more about the storm of damning litigation surrounding Donald Trump, but once you dig into the subject it makes sense. There’s just so much of it that you get lost, overwhelmed by the tangled mass of it all. Any single one of these cases would have ruined the career of a better person, but Trump doesn’t base his appeal on being right, or good, or decent. His supporters don’t care that he made a living as a con artist, and they don’t care that he’s conning them.

To reduce this list to a manageable scale, it has been limited to current pending actions, and only those cases related to Trump personally or his businesses. Trying to track all the litigation spawned by his illegal or unconstitutional executive actions would be too much to tackle here. And attempting to track the civil and criminal litigation related to his current and former government appointees might break the Internet.

Here’s the current landscape of active cases against the Trump family as of November, 2019, broken down by category:

Embezzlement Through a Phony Charity

This case, at least the civil arm of it, came to an end this week with a $2 million judgement against Trump. For decades the family has used their charity as a personal and political slush fund, stealing donations to pay their legal fees, bribe local officials, even to pay court settlements against their businesses. They used Foundation funds to bribe Pam Bondi when she was the Florida Attorney General responsible for investigating Trump University. They laundered charitable donations through Franklin Graham’s organization to the Romney campaign in 2012. They even laundered $150,000 in donations from a Ukrainian oligarch through the charity in 2015. The list of documented, unchallenged, fraudulent transactions through their phony charity has its own Wikipedia page. Potential criminal exposure still looms.

Insurance Fraud

The NY Department of Financial Services issued a subpoena to Trump’s main insurer, AON, back in March. Michael Cohen alleged in congressional testimony that the Trump organization inflated asset values in their insurance filings. Regulators are seeking documents going back to 2009 to investigate this claim. No suit has yet been filed, and there’s no available coverage to suggest that AON is resisting this request.

Mortgage Fraud

Another case arising from Cohen’s testimony has opened up an avenue to obtain Trump’s tax returns. NY’s AG issued subpoenas in March to obtain supporting documents from Deutsche Bank, to explain why the bank loaned billions of dollars to a failing Trump business. As of April of this year, it was reported that Deutsche Bank had begun turning over documents to the NY AG. However, on April 30, Trump filed suit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One to block a similar subpoena from Congress. It is unclear from the public record whether that suit applied to the NY AG’s action, or what the current status of that investigation might be.

State Tax Fraud

A lengthy New York Times investigation last year revealed decades of crude and blatant fraud designed to help the Trump family evade taxes in New York. It was reported that the state’s tax agency was opening a formal investigation last October. A ProPublica report last month detailed the tax fraud after obtaining examples of the double-accounting the organization used to cheat on tax filings.

It is unclear what the NY tax officials may be doing with their investigation, however given the blizzard of similar allegations being taken up in other cases, they may simply be sharing information with the AG to support other litigation. We do know that Michael Cohen gave an extensive briefing to the Manhattan DA last month on the subject of Trump’s tax filings.

Immigration Fraud

A few of the many known illegal workers at Trump’s properties have begun to share with the FBI the fraudulent papers supplied to them by Trump Org officials. Five illegal immigrants working at Trump’s Somerset New Jersey golf club are cooperating with the FBI, providing names along with copies of the fake green cards and Social Security numbers the company gave them. One of the workers was invited to attend the State of the Union by a New Jersey Representative. There’s been no update in this case since January. Odds are, this AG’s office will sit on the case for a while, then just deport the workers.

Multi-level Marketing Fraud

In July, a federal judge in New York ruled that a fraud suit against the Trump family over a collection of failed multi-level marketing schemes could continue, without the RICO allegations. Suit was filed in federal court by victims of this crude grift. This is perhaps the Trumpiest of all the family’s many scams. It was dumb, they didn’t have to do any work, the products involved were almost entirely fraudulent, and the targets were simple people, down on their luck, looking desperately for a way to improve. The Trump’s seized on their desperation for profit, and cut them off at the knees.

Around 2008 the Trumps were looking for a way to make money on multi-level marketing. They struck up relationships with a set of companies reselling landline phone service, vitamin supplements, energy drinks and weight loss products. Needless to say, this project ended like every other Trump venture, in failure, recriminations and finally in court. Stories of the ordinary people bilked in this scam are sad, and all too familiar.

Plaintiffs requested and were granted the right to file their suit anonymously. Their explanation, which was accepted by the judge, sounds familiar:

Plaintiffs filed this motion [to proceed under pseudonyms] because of a genuine, reasonable fear that they will face brutal retaliation for suing Defendant Donald J. Trump. Plaintiffs’ fears are based on the experience of other litigants who have sued President Trump and endured harassment, cyberattacks, and threats.

Tax Fraud in Panama Related to ‘Narco-Lago,’ Trump’s Panama Project

This one is too complex to document in detail in here, but it is described in another post. Trump’s Condo project in Panama was a money-laundering machine from the start, built around a complex legal façade enabling the organization to benefit from shell sales. It quickly descended into a bitter, and briefly violent standoff with the condo’s few legitimate residents over mismanagement.

After lengthy litigation led by a Cypriot businessman, Orestes Fintiklis, owners have wrested control of the tower’s management from the Trump Org. Fintiklis is also apparently sharing information with Panamanian authorities on Trump’s efforts to evade taxes in the country. No formal government action has yet been taken, but fraud litigation by residents against the Trump Org is likely to continue for years.

Sexual Harassment (Some Pursued Through Defamation Suits)

Out of the four dozen or so women who have accused Trump of rape or sexual harassment, three are suing him. Two are pursuing a novel tactic. Sexual misconduct cases are very difficult to win, especially when many years have passed. Plaintiffs in these cases relied on one of Trump’s signature reflexes to open an avenue of attack. They went public with their stories, counting on Trump to be stupid enough to respond by defaming them. He did. These three defamation cases, predicated on sexual abuse allegations, are being allowed to proceed.

Alva Johnson – Sexual assault along with discrimination

Summer Zervos – Defamation

Jean Carroll – Defamation

Money Laundering and Embezzlement from Inauguration Donations

Accountants have only documented a little more than half of the $100+ million collected to fund Trump’s Inauguration ceremonies. What accounting they can provide is woefully incomplete, including $26 million handed to a friend of Melania for sparsely documented services.

Federal prosecutors in New York launched a formal investigation of Trump Inauguration finances a year ago. Similar investigations by the NJ AG and the DC AG are proceeding with more urgency. Federal investigators have been interviewing witnesses, but no charges have been filed yet.

Failure to Pay Workers

Trump’s longtime chauffeur has sued to collect thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. His case was referred to arbitration last year. No outcome is reported yet.

Failure to Pay Michael Cohen’s Legal Fees

As part of the Trump operation to squash the Stormy Daniels story in 2016, the family leaned on Michael Cohen to both handle the operation and to front much of the money used for payoffs. When you deal with Trump, it’s best to get cash up front. Cohen has filed suit to collect unpaid attorney’s fees and expenses he incurred. His pleading opens a window into Cohen’s potential motivations for turning state’s evidence, as the Trumps were stiffing him on fees and expenses even while he played a lynchpin role in some of their most crucial scams. If they’d just paid the guy…

Assaults on Protesters

Two lawsuits by assaulted protesters remain in play. Galicia v. Trump was filed in New York over an assault by Trump’s security team during a protest at Trump Tower. A judge ordered Trump to give evidence in that case last month. That ordered has been temporarily stayed pending an appeal.

A second lawsuit filed in Kentucky over an assault at a Trump rally was dismissed by a state judge late last year. Attorneys promised to appeal the case, but no action has yet been taken.

Emoluments Cases

Three cases are in flight related to Trump’s violations of the Constitutions Emoluments Clause by continuing to earn money from foreign governments while in office. Ethics watchdog, CREW, filed a case immediately after the Inauguration. Their case was promptly dismissed, but a federal appeals court reinstated the case in September and it is proceeding.

A pair of cases filed by the Maryland and DC AG’s was also dismissed by a three-judge appellate panel, but it will now be reheard by the 4th Circuit in an en banc review.

Congress has also sued over Emoluments Clause violations. Their case has been allowed to proceed.

At the outset, the only issue in these cases is the standing of the plaintiffs to sue. Only after these complex standing issues can be settled will any of these cases get to the subject matter of Trump’s illegal profits from his office.

Litigation to Hide Trump’s Tax Returns

In addition to the mortgage fraud case referenced previously, which is pursuing Trump’s tax returns from Deutsche Bank via discovery of loan documents, two other efforts are underway to gain disclosure of Trump’s secret finances. Both are in advanced stages, with a first set of rulings from the Supreme Court likely coming in November.

Congress has subpoenaed several years of Trump’s tax returns from his accountants, Mazars. Trump sued Mazars to block the release of the returns. His effort to protect the returns in that case have been denied all the way through the Appellate Court, based on an October 11th ruling. A Supreme Court appeal is pending.

A similar request from a Manhattan Grand Jury was also blocked by a Trump lawsuit. Prosecutors in Manhattan have not disclosed the subject matter of the criminal investigation they are pursuing against Trump, but it’s likely related to state tax evasion in New York. A federal Appellate Court denied Trump’s request for an injunction against Mazars on November 4th. Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance has given Trump ten days to appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay, otherwise Mazars will begin compliance.

Are you exhausted yet? Remember, these are only the cases involving the Trump family directly in their personal matters, not the endless collection of suits related to Trump’s Presidential actions. Faced with the brute weight of this family’s illicit activities you have to ask yourself, why were they able to get away with this for so long? And if this single-family crimewave was able to operate with virtual impunity for decades, what else is going on out there that we should know about?

31 Comments

  1. So, the fascist party has made it clear that they will lie, cheat, do anything and everything to muddy the water so no average person (there are only political junkies here, so no one here is the target audience) can understand, or even care, about these hearings. The monster from Kentucky also had made it crystal clear that the psychopath in the Oval Office is still a useful idiot, and will be protected completely.

    So, can someone explain to me. precisely, how the playing field will be tilted more towards the side of light and good after the Senate spikes the whole process, and the tyrant now has another bullet in his gun called “Full Exoneration…Coup Stymied.”

    The Dem’s, also known as the Loser Party, have done some calculus where they envision taking the high road will somehow endear them to the 3-5% of the electorate that are the ones that are not entrenched in their opinion and votes. As I asked earlier, someone explain to me this calculus.

    1. Bolton is a strange bird.

      If you at what NeverTrump Republicans hold most consistently in common, it’s their ties, either directly through their careers, or by ideological inheritance, to the old Soviet-hawk branch of the Reagan/GOP coalition. Colin Powell and Bush Sr. in the old garde. Bill Kristol and David Frum as part of the “War on Terror” renaissance of that bloc. You run into a lot of people like Tom Nichols, who trained to fight the Soviets, people who have seen authoritarian regimes up close and fought them.

      Bolton is a raving nut, but this is the branch of the GOP he hails from. His shtick is aggressively leveraging US power to fight authoritarian regimes – in particular, Islamic ones. He’s also kind of an asshole, and so bizarre and extreme that he’s consistently failed to gain any political traction over the years, despite being very close to power.

      He’s a natural NeverTrumper, right down to the irascible, iconoclastic temperament. But up to now all his plans for the world had been thwarted. Chaos and dysfunction in the Trump Admin offered him a golden opportunity.

      Then he got in and saw what was really happening. And he started Bolton-ing, blurting his internal monologue out loud in front of the people he was berating. He was never going to last long among the thin skins of the Trump staff anyway, but to make matters worse, he wasn’t in it for the cash, so there was no way to bring him in line.

      He really might be the one who brings them down, partly because he has so little instinct for self-preservation. He’s a rogue.

      1. Jennifer Rubin thinks he’s in it for the $ now:

        “ The irony is that Bolton has consigned himself to the dustbin of history, if he is remembered at all, as one more Republican who gave up principles to work for an unfit president who willingly would betray our national security interests. Ironically, he’s settling for a middling payday rather than the chance to strike gold. Few Republicans are going to want to read a Bolton book showing Trump in a bad light. And Democrats are not about to put money into the pockets of a man who effectively blocked us from hearing damning testimony.
        However, just about everyone in America is going to want to read a story akin to John Dean’s book, “Blind Ambition” (as well as other books Dean authored), and to pay to hear a man who turned on his corrupt president to defend U.S. national security and constitutional governance.”

        Personally I could not care less if Bolton wants to join the scavengers trying to make a $ picking over Trump’s political carcass. Maybe he thinks it’s not yet the optimal time to plunge the dagger. But I think his window of opportunity is closing rapidly and he should heed Rubin’s words.

        I think he’s a warmongering asshole, but if he testifies against Trump, he will be doing America a great service and should be regarded as a hero in that.

  2. Here is an interesting story about how the Senate, just like the House, has a whole lot of leeway in choosing how do to impeachment. I’m been speculating a bit on the “what if the Senate opted for a secret ballot?” option, and there’s technically nothing that would forbid it:

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/amp/story/2019/11/12/path-to-removing-donald-trump-from-office-229911?__twitter_impression=true

    The biggest fly in the ointment I see is Trump sticking to any agreement to resign. Plus you’d need some kind of agreement to STFU on him too, which is even less likely.

    1. The below is copied from a comment I made DKOS yesterday. I’m not making a prediction except to state that an agreement of this type is a distinct possibility and would fit in with the tendency in the U.S. to accept a messy compromise, rather than a definitive conclusion, i.e. muddle through. Also I believe that Pelosi’s real objective is to get Trump out-of-office and to win the 2020 elections. Such a compromise would most likely accomplish both objectives.

      “Very interesting concept here. The Politico article suggests that a secret ballot might be the catalyst in getting a deal for Drumpf to resign as part of a grand bargain. I have been expecting that if a trial becomes probable, there would be efforts to negotiate a grand bargain, since any public vote will be a lose-lose proposition for the Republicans. Three Republican Senators demanding a trial with secret votes is perhaps doable. The positions of the various Senators in negotiations leading up to a grand bargain would not need to become public. Such a grand bargain would also allow the more responsible GOP leaders to put the Trump Presidency behind them and to allow the GOP to re-establish credibility more quickly. That would also make it easier for Moscow Mitch to be re-elected. The election in 2020 will probably be the most difficult he has faced. Still Moscow Mitch would prefer to dispense with an impeachment trial completely, but the politics could quickly approach the point where he can not longer avoid having a trial without a bargain of this nature.

      I’ll see how this plays out, but this may be a real possibility. This would also fit the typical pattern in the U.S., of crises not being fully resolved, but with a settlement, in which both sides can walk away with some credibility left, and with the issue being largely resolved. One thing for sure is that the GOP is facing a real wipeout in November 2020, including likely loss of the Senate, if things continue on the present course.”

      1. I wonder if some people “look the other way” and we see a version of Chris’ story about Trump fleeing to Moscow playing out for real. The upside of that is how it would completely demoralize his cult. The downside is that he doesn’t get all the consequences he richly deserves, and he’s free to bitch and moan publicly over his fate.

        Given McConnell’s history of bending rules and trashing norms, the secret ballot thing isn’t a reach for him. Although the vote ought to be 100-0, in some ways 67-33 would be ever better. Trump would go even more bonkers trying to figure out which 20.

      2. I’m not as confident that the 2020 election will be a a decisive win for democrats. Heck, as depressing as it is to admit, it is entirely possible trump could eek out another electoral win. After all, trump knows he loses his purported immunity from criminal charges once he leaves office. He has tremendous legal exposure and thus tremendous incentive to win – with any and every assist he can bundle.

        In watching today’s public impeachment testimony, I am so proud of our public servants who answered questions with clarity without benefit of their personal contemporary notes which are being withheld on orders of the White house. They also appeared despite being told not to. Class people.

        One final observation: there was a distinct contrast in quality of the legal counsels who represented each party. I was very impressed with Counselor Goldman for the Democrats.

      1. In the year since we’ve added the awful image of US troops leaving Syria while Kurdish civilians throw rotten produce. I would hope the shameful abandonment of loyal allies would further sour military attitudes towards Cadet Bonespurs, but Devil’s bargains are stubborn things.

  3. EJ

    Don Trump Jr’s book event was overtaken by far-Right hecklers, causing him to lose his temper and flounce.

    Ben Shapiro’s event last week was similar, getting bum-rushed by fascists who found him to be too mild for their tastes.

    History does not remember kindly those who let the demon out of the ring; nor does the demon generally reward those people.

      1. EJ

        We on the Left have been saying for years that Miller was a white supremacist, and have been told by centrists for years that he can’t be, they would know if he was one, we’re just overreacting.

        Dear centrists: it’s good to see you’ve finally come around on Miller. Grownups don’t say “I told you so”, but since your fascist-detection abilities are evidently not functioning as well as they should, would it be helpful if I gave you a list of the next people that you’re going to discover regretfully are trash? That way you can start on the “they’re not fascists, you’re overreacting” part now, to save time later.

      1. No. It’s because similar arrangements, though probably not as blatant or lucrative, are common among our political leaders. Very few Democratic leaders would emerge from a mass public airing of personal finances with their careers intact. And I suspect Nancy Pelosi may be among the most vulnerable senior Democrats. Hence, they never talk about Trump’s personal finances.

      2. EJ

        People in wooden houses don’t commit arson, and cockroaches don’t use bug spray.

        In a system where everything is for sale, nobody investigates kleptocrats: after all, it’s not profitable.

      3. As much as I respect Nancy Pelosi’s political acumen, and agree with her on issues more often than not, I’m under no illusions that her closets are free of bones. If I were offered the public exposure of Trump’s tax returns, but the price was all the high-ranking Congressional Dems had to do the same, I’d say YES! in a nanosecond. I also want HB1 to become law, but I’m not unaware that Congressional tax disclosures aren’t on it.

      4. Fly, I’m with you! Let the chips fall where they may. Pelosi may have some dark secrets in her past but Mitch McConnell is no slouch whete feathering his nest is concerned. I say make them all report. Might accomplish a lot more in one fell swoop than an election could.

      5. EJ

        The trail of money is unlikely to stay in Congress. To do a genuine reckoning, I believe, would expose a significant fraction of the moneyed classes of the American Republic, and many people overseas, to criminal prosecution. As Chris has pointed out, this sort of corruption is basically legal, and in a capitalist competitive society this makes it basically mandatory.

        Hypothesise a situation in which a significant chunk of the investor class – maybe twenty percent, maybe eighty percent – are imprisoned and have their assets confiscated. When this happens, those institutions which catered to their needs have no reason to exist, and those institutions which relied upon their money for direction now have no guidance as to which direction to go. What impact does this have upon society? More importantly, when the first few start being imprisoned, what do the rest do? Do they try to flee and take their assets with them, do they try to bribe the security forces not to come after them, or do they hire militias and resist violently?

        There’s a word for this, and that word is “revolution.” As Chris said, the society that comes after this might be quite nice once the bodies are cleared away, but there’s no guarantee of that.

        I do not oppose this, because I am an anarchist; but if you are not an anarchist, consider that you are suggesting purging the rot from a society whose upper echelons are made predominantly of rot, and that society may not survive it.

      6. “ As Chris has pointed out, this sort of corruption is basically legal, and in a capitalist competitive society this makes it basically mandatory.”

        But our constitution explicitly forbids ex post facto laws, so nobody would face penalties for past not-illegal corruption. So you could change the laws, but they’d have to say starting from this date forward, these practices are no longer allowed, these disclosures are now mandatory. The smart ones could then take their ethically questionable gains and leave the table without repercussions.

        I personally could accept such a situation like that. I see it as analogous to the financial crisis that kicked off the Great Recession. I wouldn’t have shed any tears for the reckless financiers going over the cliff, but a lot of innocent people would have gone with them. That’s why I grudgingly accepted the TARP bailouts.

      7. EJ

        But Flypusher, bribery is already illegal in the American Republic. It’s not a question of enforcing new laws retroactively: it’s a question of choosing whether or not to enforce laws that already exist, and how fairly those laws are applied.

  4. “why were they able to get away with this for so long?” During his tenure in New York City it was a running joke that any rock you lifted in commercial real estate you found a crime. The dilemma was the corruption involved city and state agencies as well and no one was eager to to stumble into an investigation where you had no idea where the crime would lead you.

    Similarly, we incorporated our Charities Bureau in the State AG office because many knew the City wasn’t equipped to tackle private family foundations who operated here in town. Trump Foundation was a functioning felony that way too many people knew about. Your question leads to cynical answers from me…nothing happens to rich white straight folks as long as they keep their graft out of sight. Trump has operated like this for so long he probably assumes its legal.

    Not unlike my beef with capitalism as practiced in the US today..its a crony capitalism that is ceasing to work for more and more people. Young people are “ok” with socialism because they don’t see the current system rewarding their efforts and talents and has left them in debt. If there is no political leadership willing to tackle our institutions or revitalize them the populace will find and vote in reforms of their own.

  5. Fascinating and depressing. And you didn’t even touch upon crimes committed while in office, not, as you stated, is this list complete. Trump’s criminal behavior is staggering in its depth and breadth. Those within the GOP who are close to this man on a daily basis, are aiding and abetting his criminality. They all sicken me.

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