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.
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.
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.
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.
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?