The Trump Investigations, Explained

ImageFormer President Donald J. Trump and his allies pressed ahead with the so-called fake electors plan even after it became clear that there were no credible claims of widespread election fraud.
Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Published Updated 

Former President Donald J. Trump’s legal jeopardy appeared to intensify significantly when federal agents issued a search warrant for his Florida club and home as part of an investigation into his handling of classified material.

But the active investigation is one of several into the former president’s business dealings and political activities.

Here are some of the most notable cases:

Classified documents inquiry

The F.B.I. searched former President Donald J. Trump’s residence and club at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., in August as part of the criminal investigation into his handling of government materials, including documents marked as classified.

The inquiry is now being overseen by a special counsel, Jack Smith. The Justice Department opened the investigation after Mr. Trump returned 15 boxes of material to the National Archives in January. When archivists examined the material, they found more than 150 documents marked as classified and referred the matter to the department.

As the agency conducted its own review, investigators began to suspect they had not recovered everything that Mr. Trump was required to return. The National Archives subsequently issued a statement asserting that he still had presidential records that should have been turned over to the archives at the end of his time in office.

The federal government repeatedly tried to retrieve the classified documents from Mr. Trump before it resorted to a search of his Florida property, according to government documents and statements by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

The search warrant listed three criminal laws as the basis of the investigation: the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention of national security secrets, obstruction and concealing or destroying government documents.

A redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the warrant revealed that the search was spurred by the discovery that Mr. Trump had kept classified material related to the use of “clandestine human sources” and that prosecutors believed “evidence of obstruction” would be found.

A court filing by the Justice Department also suggested that the classified materials stored at Mr. Trump’s residence were most likely concealed and moved as the government sought to recover them. It also disclosed that it had obtained evidence that Mr. Trump’s representatives falsely claimed all sensitive material had been returned.

Georgia election interference

Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Mr. Trump and his associates had numerous interactions with Georgia officials after the election, including a phone call in which Mr. Trump urged the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes.” Ms. Willis has also homed in on a plot by Trump allies to send fake Georgia electors to Washington and on misstatements about the election results made before the state legislature by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer.

Among those called to testify before a special grand jury in Atlanta are Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who for months fought a subpoena, and L. Lin Wood, a trial lawyer and ardent supporter of Mr. Trump’s who peddled a number of false claims about election fraud.

The inquiry appears to be targeting multiple defendants with charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud or racketeering-related charges for engaging in a coordinated scheme to undermine the election.

Mr. Giuliani has been told that he is a target of the investigation. Another possible target is John Eastman, the lawyer who developed strategies to block the certification of the 2020 election. Ms. Willis’s office has also told some state officials and pro-Trump “alternate electors” that they could be indicted.

Jan. 6 investigations

The House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, used a series of public hearings this summer to lay out a detailed narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In its most aggressive move yet, the committee issued a subpoena to Mr. Trump last month, setting up a potential high-profile court fight over whether he can be compelled to cooperate. Mr. Trump has refused to comply, leaving the committee to decide how to respond.

The panel has no power to prosecute but is weighing the largely symbolic step of making a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

The department said in November that a special counsel would oversee crucial aspects of its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, an already sprawling inquiry into the roles Mr. Trump and some of his allies played in seeking to subvert the 2020 election.

Lawyers have questioned witnesses directly before a grand jury about the actions of Mr. Trump and some of his top advisers. Federal prosecutors have also asked witnesses about Mr. Trump’s involvement in efforts to reverse his election loss.

Prosecutors have been particularly interested in the so-called fake electors plan that Mr. Trump and his allies pursued, in which his supporters in key battleground states presented themselves as alternate slates of electors, hoping to delay or block the Electoral College certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

A separate grand jury appears to be scrutinizing the creation of — and spending by — a fund-raising operation that Mr. Trump established after he lost the election and as he promoted baseless assertions about widespread voting fraud.

New York State civil inquiry

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, accused Mr. Trump, his family business and his three adult children of lying to lenders and insurers, fraudulently inflating the value of his hotels, golf courses and other assets.

The allegations, included in a sweeping lawsuit issued in September, is the culmination of a civil investigation into whether Mr. Trump violated the law in wildly overstating the value of his various properties by billions of dollars to obtain favorable loans.

Ms. James is seeking to bar Mr. Trump and three of his children who are named as defendants — Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr. — from ever running a business in the state again. Her office, which in this case lacks authority to file criminal charges, referred the findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. attorney would investigate.

When Ms. James, who has been examining Mr. Trump’s business practices for more than three years, summoned Mr. Trump in August to testify in a deposition, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to respond to questions on the grounds that his answers might incriminate him more than 400 times.

In September, Ms. James’s office rebuffed a settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers. Days later, Ms. James filed her lawsuit.

The Manhattan criminal investigation

Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been conducting a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders.

The inquiry faded from view after signs emerged suggesting that Mr. Trump was unlikely to be indicted. But Mr. Bragg said in April that the investigation, which began under his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., was continuing, although he did not offer a clear sense of its direction.

Mr. Bragg’s comments came after two prosecutors who had been leading the investigation left the office. One of them, Mark F. Pomerantz, said in a resignation letter published by The Times that he believed the office had enough evidence to charge Mr. Trump with “numerous” felonies. Mr. Pomerantz said that Mr. Bragg’s decision was “contrary to the public interest.”

The investigation has yielded criminal charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg. Mr. Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 felonies, admitting that he conspired with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out a scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish perks. As part of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg is required to testify at the company’s trial if prosecutors choose to call on him. The plea deal does not require Mr. Weisselberg to cooperate with the Manhattan district attorney’s broader investigation into Mr. Trump.