US election: Donald Trump faces a battery of legal cases – and the threat of jail time – on leaving office
US President Donald Trump faces a blizzard of lawsuits and even the potential threat of jail time when he leaves office.
From allegations of tax evasion to potential charges arising out of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the outgoing president and his legal team can expect to spend considerable time in court.
Estimates of the number of cases vary, with some experts suggesting that there could be more than a dozen.
Before the 2016 election Trump boasted that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and people would still vote for him.
Experts believe that the courts may not be so forgiving once Trump leaves the White House.
Potentially, the biggest threat comes from an investigation into his tax affairs being pursued relentlessly by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Vance subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA.
The president fought tooth and nail to avoid the documents being released without success, with the Supreme Court rejecting Trump’s argument that he enjoyed immunity because of his office.
Should Trump be found guilty of tax evasion, he could face up to five years in jail.
The other major threat is posed by the Mueller investigation.
Mueller did not clear the president of obstruction of justice, but merely ruled that he was bound by Justice Department guidelines that a criminal indictment could not be made against a sitting president.
According to the report, there were 10 occasions when Trump may have obstructed justice.
Once he is stripped of presidential immunity, there is a danger that prosecutors might want to revisit the issue.
One option on the table would be a presidential pardon. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon after he was forced out of office in the wake of the Watergate scandal in August 1974.
In office, Trump has used his powers to protect allies, including commuting Roger Stone’s jail sentence. He has also pardoned sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court.
The president asserted in 2018 that he could pardon himself, but this has been disputed by legal scholars. Joe Biden’s position is not known.
There is also a raft of civil cases which could cost Trump dearly both financially and in terms of his reputation.
Summer Zervos, a contestant on The Apprentice, is suing Trump for defamation after he denied her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2007.
Advice columnist E Jean Carroll is also accusing him of defamation after Trump denied her allegations of rape.
Another embarrassing case has been brought by Mary Trump, the president’s niece, who accuses him and other members of the Trump family of cheating her out of her inheritance.
Trump will also have to defend a case brought by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is suing the Trump organisation for nearly US$2 million in legal fees.
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