No longer, for the moment, dominating headlines in the U.S. or around the world, Donald Trump faces increasing legal peril. It’s entirely possible that he will become the first American president ever charged with committing felonies in or out of office—and the cases against him could, in turn, upend the U.S. Republican Party and 2024 presidential election. Public prosecutors in at least four jurisdictions are conducting criminal and civil investigations of Trump, while the U.S. Congress’ January 6 Committee will begin hearings, in April or May, on the attack at the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s role in it. How serious are these legal threats against him?
is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore, a former assistant U.S. attorney, and the author of How to Think Like a Lawyer—and Why
. The biggest danger to Trump, Wehle says, is the criminal investigation in Georgia over his call to the state’s top election official, when the former president asked him to “find” enough votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory there. As Wehle points out, that call was recorded, eliminating any doubt about what Trump said. The January 6 Committee also presents potentially grave legal jeopardy for him, given the caliber of the prosecutors leading the investigation, the fact that the hearings will be public, and the possibility that the committee will refer criminal charges to the Justice Department. Meanwhile, Wehle says, what’s happening with the long-running civil and criminal probes of Trump’s business dealings led by prosecutors in Manhattan and New York State remains murky, and their outcomes remain uncertain—but then, so is the potential damage to Trump they represent.
Michael Bluhm: How do things look for Donald Trump right now?
Kimberly Wehle: It’s likely that there’s going to be some legal accountability. There are ongoing criminal investigations in Georgia, New York, and a suburb of New York. There’s also an ongoing criminal investigation in Manhattan, though it looks like the new district attorney there, Alvin Bragg, is pulling back. Then we have a civil case in the state of New York relating to Trump’s taxes and alleged misstatements to banks.
But the most overarching investigation is the January 6 Committee’s. They don’t have the authority to bring a criminal indictment, but Jamie Raskin—a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives who was a brilliant constitutional scholar before taking office—has said that the revelations will blow the lid off the House. I assume that means we will hear new information that didn’t have in the second impeachment trial, and the Justice Department will be hearing it, as well. I have a hunch that the Department is waiting to see the public reaction to the January 6 revelations before pursuing a case against Trump.
Bluhm: When do you expect decisions on charges?