Former President Donald Trump is no stranger to legal scrutiny. In addition to being the only American president to ever be impeached twice, Trump and his businesses have been involved in thousands of legal disputes spanning decades. Now that he is out of office, Trump is under increased legal scrutiny for his shady and dangerous actions, both in and out of office. Leading the charge are several Black officials in a variety of positions and jurisdictions who have been investigating the former president. As they investigate accusations and potentially prepare charges against the ex-president, here are five Black officials who may legally take down Trump and the latest developments in their cases against him.
Letitia James is seeking to put Trump and his kids under oath.
When Letitia James was elected into the office of Attorney General for New York state in 2018, she took over multiple investigations into shady and possibly illegal business practices carried out by the Trump Organization in New York over many years before Trump ran for president. James came into office announcing that she would pursue Trump and his family, and she has followed through on that promise. In the years since, James’ office has conducted a wide-ranging civil investigation into the Trump family and their business practices. James’ investigation clearly rattled the former president, who ranted against her on Twitter back before he used his Twitter account to foment insurrection. James recently surprised her backers when she announced that she was abandoning her campaign for governor of New York to instead run for reelection as attorney general, a move that many believe signals her determination to see the Trump case through to the end.
Earlier this month, James announced that her investigation had “uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.” Among other things, the Trump Organization is accused of vastly misrepresenting the value of real estate properties to gain business loans and avoid tax liabilities. For just one of these properties, Trump is alleged to have overvalued his Trump Tower apartment by $200 million. James has also implicated two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who both play leadership roles in the Trump Organization and are said to be personally involved in manipulative business decisions. James is now attempting to force Trump, Donald Jr. and Ivanka to sit for depositions where they would be forced to testify concerning these accusations, which would require them to give their side of the story and open them up to potential perjury charges if they attempt to lie under oath.
Alvin Bragg has taken over a criminal probe of Trump in New York City.
While James’ office has carried out its civil investigation of the Trump Organization, a parallel criminal investigation has been conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. As Blavity previously reported, Alvin Bragg has just taken office as the new Manhattan DA, inheriting a case that many believe will soon result in criminal charges against high-ranking Trump Organization officials, and possibly against Donald Trump himself.
The DA's office has already indicted the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax fraud charges. The DA’s office has also obtained copies of Trump’s tax returns after years of fighting with the former president’s legal team over the release of said documents. These developments hint at a larger criminal case that could include Trump. If this happens, Bragg may find himself in the unique historical circumstances of criminally prosecuting a former president.
Fani Willis has obtained a grand jury to bring charges over Georgia election tampering.
Bragg may not be the only DA to prosecute a criminal case against Trump. As officials in New York investigate Trump’s business dealings, several investigations are ongoing concerning his time as president, and particularly the extraordinary attempts that he made to stay in office after being defeated by Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Trump tried multiple ways to sue, manipulate and bully his way back into office, threatening democracy in the process. One of the more notorious parts of this campaign was Trump pressuring officials in Georgia, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to review the election that Biden won and “find 11,780 votes,” the exact amount that Trump would have needed to win the state. As Blavity previously reported, the phone call may have violated a number of federal laws and could leave Trump facing serious jail time and fines if found guilty.
For a while, it had been unclear if the investigation into Trump's potential election tampering in Georgia would go anywhere. That uncertainty began to disappear earlier this month, when Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis sought and was granted a grand jury trial. This move will allow Willis to gather additional evidence and to issue subpoenas for witnesses to testify. These are key steps in building a potential criminal case against Trump or others in his orbit who tried to change the election results in Georgia. Willis has said that she expects to make a decision concerning criminal charges in the first half of 2022.
Karl Racine is going after pro-Trump militia for attacking Washington D.C.
While Trump’s efforts in Georgia were outrageous, they paled in comparison to the events of last January, when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory. The Capitol Hill insurrection and its aftermath left several people dead and dozens of police officers injured, and it produced a continuing threat to American democracy. Over the past year, hundreds of people have been charged with crimes related to the insurrection.
The efforts to bring those responsible for the insurrection to justice took a major step when Washington, D.C., District Attorney Karl Racine recently announced that the city was suing the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for their involvement in the violence. These two right-wing militias have a long history with Trump, who even gave a shout-out to the Proud Boys during a presidential debate in 2020. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has filed criminal sedition charges against several members of the Oath Keepers, including its leader Stewart Rhodes (no relation), and the investigations appear to be closing in on Trump’s inner circle, with the potential to trace back to the former president.
Bennie Thompson-led congressional select committee is investigating the Jan. 6 conspiracy.
While the Oath Keepers and other militia face charges for their role in the Capitol Hill insurrection, the Jan. 6 congressional select committee continues to investigate the larger conspiracy that led to the violent attempt to overturn democracy. Led by Congressman Bennie Thompson, the committee has continued to gather documents, evidence and testimony from a wide variety of sources, piecing together why the insurrection happened and which leaders were responsible.
Just recently, the committee has begun to explore a plan by Trump to seize voting machines as part of his efforts to overturn the election. The committee has also questioned key Trump officials, including former U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Thompson has also revealed that members of Congress met with people who later participated in the chaos of Jan. 6, and the chairman has indicated a plan to hold public hearings soon to explore more information concerning the insurrection.
Overall, Thompson’s committee, with its power to compel testimony and evidence, is an important force in uncovering the truth about Jan. 6 and the level at which Trump was involved. The congressional investigation continues to operate alongside other investigations into Trump’s activities before taking office and his actions as president. Together, these investigations, and the Black prosecutors and lawmakers leading them, are the best bet for holding Donald Trump accountable for a variety of self-serving, unethical and possibly very illegal actions.