ourEconomy: Feature

Six ways Donald Trump can still be brought to justice

The impeachment trial may have failed, but the former president has multiple legal battles ahead of him

Aaron headshot.jpg
Laurie Macfarlane Aaron White
13 February 2021, 8.50pm
Senators voted mainly along party lines to acquit the former president

Donald Trump escaped conviction in the Senate – but that does not mean the former president will not be held accountable for his actions.

Here are six ways he can still be brought to justice.

The Capitol riots

Trump supporters climb the Capitol, Washington DC
Pro-Trump protesters breaching the Capitol, Washington DC, on 6 January 2021
Lev Radin/Sipa USA/PA Images

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Some historians and legal scholars believe that Section Three of the 14th Amendment could be invoked against the former president, for his role inciting the Capitol riots on 6 January 2021.

The amendment, which was ratified in 1868 to prevent former members of the confederacy from holding public office after the Civil War, states that no person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the US, “or given aid to the enemies thereof” can hold office.

Lawmakers including Tim Kaine, a Virginia senator who was the Democrat’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016, believe Congress could pass legislation enforcing the provision by a simple majority vote. If the courts then accepted the verdict, Trump would be officially barred from running for public office again.

Trump could also face criminal charges for his role in inciting the insurrection, from either the incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland, or city prosecutors for the District of Columbia. However, most legal experts believe a conviction would be unlikely given the US constitution’s broad free speech protections.

Defamation cases

Stormy Daniels leaves a federal court hearing in New York, in April 2018
Louis Lanzano/SIPA USA/PA Images

Trump is no stranger to defamation cases, and with his presidential immunity now withdrawn many opponents are preparing to launch a new wave of lawsuits.

Among them is the adult film star, Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to keep quiet about her claims of an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. The former president has denied the affair, and claimed he does not know why Cohen made the payment to Daniels.

In a recent podcast, Daniels said she believes her legal battle is “about to kick off again” now that Trump is out of office, and her lawyers are preparing to revive the defamation case in the Supreme Court.

Trump is also facing defamation lawsuits from E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine writer who has accused him of raping her in the dressing room of a luxury Manhattan department store in the 1990s, and Summer Zervos, a former contestant on ‘The Apprentice’, who alleges he sexually assaulted her in 2007. Trump has denied both accusations.

Business dealings

Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in February 2019

Perhaps the most serious legal threat facing the former president is the criminal investigation launched by Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, into Trump and the Trump Organization’s business dealings.

According to recent court filings, Vance’s investigation is exploring possible banking, tax and insurance-related fraud – including allegations made by Michael Cohen that the former president inflated the value of his assets when applying for loans, while deflating the value of his properties to reduce tax burdens.

Letitia James, the attorney-general of New York, is also pursuing a civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization misrepresented the value of its properties. Her office has already interviewed one of Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, under oath.

According to The New York Times, both offices have also subpoenaed records related to the Trump Organization’s consulting fees paid to members of the family – including Ivanka Trump – that were claimed as business tax deductions.

Trump and his siblings are also being sued by a group of New York tenants in rent-regulated apartments that were previously owned by Trump’s father, Fred Trump. The plaintiffs have accused the Trumps of fraudulently increasing their rents by inflating the price of building materials. If the case is granted class-action status, any court judgment would cover every person who paid rent in more than 14,000 rent-regulated apartments since 1992.

Money troubles

Deutsche Bank, Trump’s most important creditor, cut ties with him following the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Although Trump claims to be a billionaire, his finances have long been the subject of controversy. After a series of high-profile bankruptcies in the 1990s, most banks stopped lending to Trump and his associated businesses. One of the few exceptions was the German lender Deutsche Bank, which has since become Trump’s most important creditor.

The Trump Organization, fronted by Trump’s two older sons, Eric and Donald Jr, currently owes the bank $340m in three outstanding loans. But after the attack on the US Capitol, Deutsche Bank was one of many corporations to formally cut ties with the former president.

The Trump Organization will have to pay back the loans in full in 2023 and 2024, unless the family finds another bank willing to lend it money.

According to a CNBC source, if the Trump Organization cannot repay the loans and defaults, Deutsche Bank has the right to seize the golf courses and hotels that the loans are secured against. The bank can also go after Trump’s own personal assets if the value of the business assets is not sufficient to cover the debts.

Family feuds

Mary Trump.jpg
In her book, Mary Trump claims her uncle, Donald Trump, cheated her out of millions of dollars
Richard B. Levine/SIPA USA/PA Images

Trump is also facing legal challenges from within his own family. Mary Trump, the former president’s niece, has filed a lawsuit against Trump and two of his siblings accusing them of defrauding her out of an inheritance worth tens of millions of dollars.

Mary Trump outlined her allegations in her book ‘Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.’

Trump is seeking the dismissal of the case, accusing Mary Trump of embracing “conspiracy theories”.

The Scotland headache

A protester outside the Scottish Parliament demands the government investigates Trump
Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Trump’s troubles aren’t limited to the US. In Scotland, pressure is growing on lawmakers to investigate the finances of Trump’s two controversial golf resorts.

Trump opened his Trump International golf course on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire in 2012, before purchasing the Turnberry golf resort in Ayrshire in 2014. Locals have long resisted Trump’s takeover of the sites, but in recent years questions have emerged about the source of the money used to purchase the golf courses.

An inquiry by the US House of Representatives into allegations about possible links between Trump and Russia heard allegations that the Turnberry golf course may have been used for money laundering – a claim that the former president has always denied.

On 3 February the Scottish Green Party brought forward a motion calling on Scottish ministers to seek an unexplained wealth order (UWO) against Trump over his acquisition of the golf courses. An UWO is a legal mechanism aimed at forcing those suspected of serious financial corruption – including money laundering – to explain the source of their wealth.

The Scottish Parliament ultimately voted against the motion by a vote of 89 to 32, but campaigners remain optimistic a UWO could be issued in future, forcing Trump to disclose where the funds he used to purchase the golf courses ultimately came from.

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