Donald Trump: The other legal cases hanging over the former US president

There are three more challenges looming for the Republican after his indictment today

Today’s court appearance in Manhattan represents the most urgent legal problem facing former president Donald Trump – but he has plenty more on his plate, some of it more serious.

The classified documents case

What it’s about: Last summer, the FBI found a cache of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. A special counsel, Jack Smith, was then appointed to conduct a criminal investigation. As well as charges relating to Trump’s handling of the documents itself, there is the possibility he could be charged with orchestrating the obstruction of the FBI’s efforts to retrieve them. According to Trump, it’s another “witch-hunt”.

What it could mean: Smith is still gathering evidence, and is some distance from filing charges. Trump could theoretically face prison time; if he was found guilty of concealing or destroying official documents, he could also be banned from holding public office, although some legal analysts suggest that such a ban could be unconstitutional.

The Georgia election fraud case

What it’s about: After a recording emerged in 2021 of Trump urging Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to “find” extra votes to get him over the line, Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis began a wider investigation into his alleged attempts to subvert the result of the election.


The forewoman of a special grand jury considering the case said that a dozen people were likely to face indictments, and when asked if one of them would be Trump, said: “You’re not going to be shocked.” If so, the next stage is for Willis to decide whether to press on with indicting Trump. CNN has reported that she is considering racketeering and conspiracy charges – used to pursue organised criminal enterprises.

What it could mean: Racketeering and conspiracy charges could theoretically carry long prison sentences. Unsurprisingly, Trump and his legal team fiercely reject the premise of the cases against him as “blatantly unconstitutional”, and have filed a motion asking for Willis to be disqualified from the case. Some observers have also suggested that any case resting on his call to Raffensperger would be difficult to prove because it requires proving his deliberate intent to interfere with the results – and he would argue that he merely wanted the official to find uncounted legitimate votes.

The January 6th case

What it’s about: After the riots at the US Capitol by Trump supporters in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s election victory, a congressional committee investigated Trump’s role in attempting to overturn the result and inciting the insurrection. It ultimately recommended four criminal charges against Trump, and referred them to the justice department.

That was largely symbolic, since the justice department was already running an investigation, again via special counsel Jack Smith. Very little has leaked out of his investigation, but he appears to be seeking to conclude by the summer, and has subpoenaed former vice-president Mike Pence as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

What it could mean: With no details on what charges Smith is considering against the former president, it’s hard to say much about the likely outcome. Again, some of the offences under consideration could theoretically mean jail time, or that he is barred from public office – but they are mostly highly complex and highly politicised. Legal analysts suggest it will be hard for Smith to clear the bar to get guilty verdicts. The easiest win might be charging him with one of the more minor possible offences, conspiracy to make a false statement, the Los Angeles Times reported in December. - Guardian