The walls are closing in on Donald Trump – is his time finally up?

Former president faces multiple challenges of many fronts, writes Andrew Buncombe

Thursday 22 September 2022 05:59 BST
Trump dismissed lawsuit as latest piece of ‘persistent, targeted and unethical political harassment’
Trump dismissed lawsuit as latest piece of ‘persistent, targeted and unethical political harassment’ (Getty Images)

Often when it comes to Donald Trump, language alone fails to describe what is going on.

At various points, particularly so once he became president, charts or timelines can prove to be a better tool for understanding events.

His firing of James Comey in May 2017, for instance, apparently because the FBI Director would not agree to go easy on General Michael Flynn, who lied to agents about his conversations with a Russian diplomat, led to the creation of the Mueller Probe, which highlighted many lapses by Trump and possible obstruction of justice.

Trump would rage for months about the Mueller report – both claiming he had been exonerated and that it was a witch-hunt.

When it came to Trump’s first impeachment, with enthusiasm for such a venture among Democrats no doubt heightened after Mueller was not able to lay out actionable conclusions, it was often handy to have a list of names to follow along.

What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Kyiv? What was he demanding of this then little-heard of leader Volodymyr Zelensky, what was Hunter Biden’s relevance, and had Democrat Adam Schiff’s staff been tipped off about a whistleblower to Trump’s apparent attempt to pressure Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for the release of military?

Even with the notes in front of you, it was often hard to follow along.

Now, once again, we are in need of special props.

On Wednesday morning, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of financial fraud, and claiming they knowingly misrepresented the value of Trump Organization business interests over many years.

“The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr Trump and the Trump Organization for their own financial benefit is astounding,” James said on Wednesday morning at a press conference on New York.

“Claiming that you have money that you do not have does not amount to the Art of the Deal, it’s the art of the steal”.

New York Attorney General announces lawsuit against Donald Trump

James wants the return of $250m in assets, Trump’s oldest three children to be barred from holding office, and Trump himself to be prevented from any business dealings in the city or state for five years, something that must irk and anger a man born in the city, and whose swagger often seems to typify New York tycoons from the 1970s or 1980s.

Trump was quick to dismiss the lawsuit as an effort by James to harass him and his family, accusing her of going after him for political reasons, and describing her announcement as “the culmination of nearly three years of persistent, targeted, unethical political harassment”.

The lawsuit alone would seem bad for Trump and his family, accusing the man who famously posed as a successful businessman in The Apprentice, of falsehoods and rank dishonesty.

But James’ lawsuit is not Trump’s only challenge, and this is where we may need help of an intersecting Venn diagram chart, or even an old fashioned board game, such as Risk.

For as James passes on her findings to the court, and to other prosecutors, it is important to remember Trump faces lots and lots of other problems.

In August, FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, where they took away hundreds of secret and classified documents that the former president allegedly should not have been holding onto after he left the White House.

The investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice is carrying out its inquiries on a warrant sought for possible breach of the Espionage Act. So far, Trump has failed to come up with a plausible reason as to why he still had those documents, other than that he wanted to.

Former president faces multiple challenges
Former president faces multiple challenges (Getty Images)

It is unclear how Trump gets out of this. For now, an independent assessor, or special master, is reviewing the documents seized by the FBI to determine whether any may be privileged.

Most legal experts have said such an examination is unnecessary and the Trump team’s request for one is widely seen as a delaying tactic.

And that is not his only pressing problem.

Next week, the committee investigating the Jan 6 attacks at the US Capitol, an episode for which Trump was impeached a second time, is to meet to deliver a report and announce any possible referrals.

Polling data has shown that these carefully curated presentations have harmed Trump’s standing among Republicans, an increasing number of whom are at least ready to consider voting for someone else, even as Trump himself appears adamant he is going to run again.

One thing intersects each and all of these various things – Donald Trump himself, and his apparent belief that normal rules and laws do not apply to him.

Trump has repeatedly been written off before from various scandals only to bounce back.

It may well be his escapes from all of this as well. But for now, it feels the wall are closing in.

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