A year ago
A year ago
He appointed federal judges, who utterly rejected him. charges of extensive fraud made by the attorney general of New York. Donald Trump's legal issues have been getting worse over the past week, making clear the difficulties he has now that he is no longer operating under the cover of the White House.
The bluster that helped him in the political sphere is less useful in the courtroom, where judges this week have questioned his assertions and where a fraud probe that started while Trump was still president has come to light in a 222-page state lawsuit loaded with accusations.
You can say whatever you want in politics, as long as people like it. According to Chris Edelson, a professor of government at American University and an expert on presidential powers, "it's different in a legal context. It's a setting where mistakes, wrongdoing, and false claims have immediate repercussions in a way that doesn't apply in politics.
This week, a single 30-hour span made clear the difference between politics and law.
In an interview with Fox News that aired on Wednesday, Trump argued that the highly classified government documents he had at Mar-a-Lago had indeed been declassified and that a president had the authority to do so "simply by thinking about it."
The Trump team neglected to provide any evidence to back up his claims that the records had been declassified, though an impartial arbitrator his own lawyers had said was dubious the day before. A seasoned federal judge and special master, Raymond Dearie, claimed that Trump's team was attempting to "have its cake and eat it, too," and that in the absence of evidence to support the assertions, he was inclined to see the data as classified.
The New York State attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Trump on Wednesday morning, alleging that he routinely misled banks about the value of valuable assets and increased his net worth by billions of dollars. Three of his adult children are also named as defendants in the complaint, which is the result of a three-year probe that started when he was president and attempts to prevent them from ever again managing a business in the state. Trump has denied doing anything illegal.
A few hours later, he received a shocking defeat in the Mar-a-Lago investigation from three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, two of whom were Trump appointees.
The special master was supposed to conduct an impartial examination of the roughly 100 secret documents acquired during the FBI search last month, but the court strongly rejected such claims.
The Justice Department can now use the classified records in its investigation once more thanks to that decision. It removed a restraining order issued by lower court judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump nominee whose decisions in the Mar-a-Lago case had been the only respite for the outgoing president up until that point. She reacted on Thursday by removing the provisions of her order requiring the Justice Department to let Dearie and Trump's attorneys access to the classified documents.
According to Richard Serafini, a Florida criminal defense attorney and former Justice Department prosecutor, "I think that basically there may be a developing consensus, if not an already developed consensus, that the government has the stronger position in a lot of these issues and controversies" given Dearie's stance and the appeals court ruling.
To be fair, Trump is no stranger to courtroom dramas; throughout his decades-long business career, he has been deposed in various lawsuits, and he has shown an amazing ability to withstand situations that seemed hopeless.
A request for comment made on Thursday did not immediately receive a response from his attorneys.
Trump was under scrutiny in the White House for potentially obstructing a Justice Department investigation into potential ties between Russia and his 2016 campaign. The power of the presidency ultimately served to shield him, at least in part, as special counsel Robert Mueller cited long-standing departmental protocol forbidding the indictment of a president who is in office.
Despite being twice impeached by a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives—once over a phone contact with the head of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and again for the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021—he was twice cleared by the Senate thanks to Republican party support.
No criminal charges have yet been filed in connection with any of the ongoing investigations, including those into the Mar-a-Lago incident, the January 6 incident, or the Georgia election tampering. And the legal dispute in New York is a civil one.
Even though Trump has frequently relied on an expansive interpretation of executive power to defend his retention of records that the agency claims are not his, regardless of their classification, it is clear that he no longer benefits from the protection of the president.
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