The depth and breadth of the looming legal problems facing former President Trump are on full display this week after a rapid series of developments in various cases.
In the past few days alone, one of Trump’s top lawyers departed, citing internal friction, the special counsel has intensified his investigation into the former president’s conduct and writer E. Jean Carroll has filed for more damages after Trump mocked her sexual assault allegations at a CNN town hall.
Meanwhile, a New York judge called a hearing Tuesday to reiterate to Trump that rules surrounding his hush money prosecution bar him from using evidence in the case to attack any witnesses.
The specter of legal trouble is nothing new for Trump. Jack Smith, a Justice Department special counsel, is investigating his handling of classified information and his efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election. A Georgia prosecutor is probing attempts to overturn the state’s election results in 2020.
Former President Donald Trump applauds as he departs after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Trump was indicted earlier this year on charges related to an alleged hush money scheme to keep an affair quiet during the 2016 campaign, and he was recently found liable for defamation and sexual abuse of Carroll.
But the latest developments come as the 2024 GOP primary field takes shape, with Trump’s chief rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), set to enter the race this week, just days after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) jumped in the contest Monday.
The steady stream of news began in recent days when Timothy Parlatore, one of Trump’s attorneys handling the document case, resigned and went public with some of his concerns about the influence of some in the former president’s inner circle.
“It had nothing to do with the case itself or the client,” Parlatore told CNN’s Paula Reid.
“The real reason is because there are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be. In particular, there is one individual who works for him, Boris Epshteyn, who had really done everything he could to try to block us — to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president.”
More coverage of Donald Trump from The Hill:
- Wanda Sykes predicts Trump 2024 defeat: ‘Old Man Biden will beat him again!’
- Trump aides mock DeSantis for ‘out of touch’ campaign launch plans
- Trump hush money trial in Manhattan DA criminal case set for March 2024
- Haley campaign labels DeSantis ‘Trump without the charm’ ahead of expected 2024 launch
- Trump defends refusal to back abortion ban: ‘Exceptions are very important’
Parlatore said Epshteyn “served as kind of a filter to prevent us from getting information to the client. … In my opinion, he was not very honest with us or with the client on certain things.”
That includes major events in the case, including subsequent searches of Trump properties to assure there were no remaining classified records on the premises.
“There were certain things, like the searches, that he attempted to interfere with,” Parlatore said.
Smith’s case against Trump, especially on the Mar-a-Lago front, appears to be accelerating.
Parlatore told The Hill last week that Smith appeared to be wrapping up his presentation to the grand jury assembled in the case.
“I think that they’re just about done with all the grand jury witnesses at this point. And moving into the report writing phase,” he said.
“I think that they’re going to spend the next month writing up a several-hundred-page report …and present it to [Attorney General Merrick Garland in the] beginning of June.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, April 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The investigation has expanded to also include some of the Trump organization’s business dealings while the former president was still in office.
Smith issued a subpoena for records of business deals that former President Trump’s company made with seven countries since he took office in 2017: China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis signaled in recent days that charges in her investigation could come in early August. That case is focused on a “fake electors” scheme hatched by Trump allies after the 2020 election.
As those investigations play out, others are already expected to follow him into presidential primary season next spring.
Attorneys for Carroll on Monday amended a complaint to seek additional damages from Trump after he called her a “whack job” and mocked her allegation that he raped her in an encounter in the 1990s. He made the comments during a CNN town hall earlier this month, the day after a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation. The civil case will likely loom over the former president for months to come.
A Manhattan judge Tuesday tentatively set the trial date for Trump’s hush money case for March 2024, which would be right in the thick of primary voting.
Also in that case, Justice Juan Merchan agreed to a request from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) to schedule a Tuesday hearing reviewing the limitations on how the former president may use the evidence he has access to during the trial.
Merchan has said Trump will remain free to speak about the “vast majority of the evidence” but that he may not directly post evidence to social media nor reveal information about witnesses involved in the case. He is also only allowed to review evidence in the presence of his attorneys.
Trump lashed out at the decision Tuesday.
“Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, “Freedom of Speech,” have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season. Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE, and nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before!!!” Trump wrote in a post on his social media site.
So far, the myriad controversies have yet to seriously harm Trump politically in the GOP race.
The former president’s polling lead has expanded since he was indicted last month in the hush money case, and his team of advisers believe he benefited from the CNN town hall, despite the potential legal implications of his comments about Carroll and classified documents he’d taken with him to his Mar-a-Lago estate.
A RealClearPolitics average of recent GOP primary polls shows Trump with a comfortable 37-percentage-point lead over DeSantis, who is polling in second place in most surveys.
“Great Poll Numbers, but the Communists are after me. Can’t let them succeed. MAGA!” Trump wrote on Truth Social this week.