For Trump, indictment in Stormy Daniels case is just the tip of the iceberg

"The Georgia case and the federal ones are the ones where jail time is more likely," lawyer Norm Eisen told Yahoo News.

Former President Donald Trump waves from inside a car.
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While Tuesday’s arraignment of former President Donald Trump marked the first time a former U.S. president had ever been charged with criminal offenses, it likely won’t be the last. By summer’s end, Trump could be charged in no fewer than four separate criminal investigations.

In fact, while Trump’s indictment stemming from his $130,000 hush money payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels represents a legal threat to the former president, the others may carry a greater risk of serious consequences, including a possible prison sentence.

Here’s the latest on the three other investigations that could result in more indictments for Trump.

Georgia election interference

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis leans against a stack of cardboard boxes as she poses for a photo at her office in Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis at her office in Atlanta in 2021. (John Bazemore/AP, File)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will soon decide whether to charge Trump with multiple crimes for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. As Yahoo News reported in late February, Willis and her team are going over the possible charges they may file against Trump and his associates with a fine-tooth comb. An indictment could come in the next few weeks and may contain multiple criminal counts.

“Because there is such a tsunami of potential counts that the DA could bring, the proper analytical frame is to ask whether she’ll bring a laser-focus, narrow case or is she going to bring a sweeping, broad case,” attorney Norm Eisen told Yahoo News.

At the center of both potential prosecutorial approaches to charging Trump is his infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in which Trump urged him to “find” enough votes to flip his loss in the crucial swing state. Trump has insisted that he did nothing wrong in the “perfect” phone call, but according to Eisen it would be an especially prominent part of the prosecution’s case should Willis pursue a narrowly tailored indictment.

“If she brings more of the laser-focused case, the anchor of that case and the most dangerous to Trump is the solicitation of election fraud because it fits his solicitation of Raffensperger to just find 11,780 votes that did not exist like a hand fits a glove,” Eisen said.

Eisen helped author a November report by the Brookings Institution, where he is a senior fellow, that laid out the possible charges in the Georgia case, including solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with performance of election duties, interference with primaries and elections, and conspiracy to commit election fraud.

Trump and his allies also launched a plot to draw up a slate of false electors in Georgia so as to keep Joe Biden from receiving the state’s Electoral College votes. That effort included meetings held between Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Georgia lawmakers. According to the Brookings Institution report, charges from that campaign could include making false statements, improperly influencing government officials, forgery in the first degree and criminal solicitation.

If Willis decides on a more sweeping indictment, she will likely use Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Eisen said.

“There she would claim that the Trump campaign essentially became a racketeering enterprise and that acts like soliciting those state votes and soliciting those fake election certificates were the basis for advancing this much larger conspiracy,” he said.

“I’d guess she goes the RICO route,” Eisen speculated. “It’s tougher to prove. It sweeps in more evidence. It’s tougher on the jury because it requires them to sit for longer. There’s challenges that come with the RICO route, but the payoff in terms of commanding the jury’s imagination and securing the most serious penalties is substantial.”

In Georgia, that payoff would further complicate Trump’s ability to conduct a presidential campaign.

“Given the nature, the severity, the sweep and the scope, the Georgia case and the federal ones are the ones where jail time is more likely,” Eisen said.

Jan. 6 investigation

A screenshot taken from video released by the House select committee shows then-President Donald Trump at a podium recording a video statement at the White House on January 7, 2021.
This exhibit from video released by the House Jan. 6 committee shows Trump recording a video statement at the White House on Jan. 7, 2021. (House Select Committee via AP)

In the ongoing federal grand jury investigation into Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, effort to overturn the 2020 election results, Trump’s lawyers have failed to convince federal judges that his conversations with aides, family members and associates are protected by executive privilege.

The latest defeat came last week, when U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that former Vice President Mike Pence was required to testify before the grand jury convened by special counsel Jack Smith.

Pence’s lawyers have argued that since he was acting in his role as president of the Senate during the certification of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, he could not be compelled to testify in a case involving the executive branch.

“We’re currently talking to our counsel about the balance of that decision and determining the way forward, but I have nothing to hide,” Pence told reporters last week while traveling in Iowa.

The ruling follows another in late March by Judge Beryl Howell that cleared the way for testimony from aides such as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump personal aides John McEntee and Nick Luna, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, former speechwriter Stephen Miller, former acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli and former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

While Trump’s legal team is expected to appeal Howell’s ruling, executive privilege claims are harder to uphold in matters involving potential criminal acts. Meadows, for instance, also fought a subpoena to appear before the Fulton County grand jury in Georgia but lost that battle and eventually testified.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has been listening to a mountain of evidence in the case and could soon decide whether to indict Trump for a range of charges that include obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and insurrection.

Classified documents at Mar-a-Lago

Two security agents talk to each other at the entrance to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Security agents at the entrance to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 31. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Smith is also investigating whether Trump may have directed others to obstruct the return of classified documents to the National Archives and the FBI that he kept in violation of federal records laws at his Mar-a-Lago home. On Monday, citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported that Justice Department and FBI investigators had compiled evidence showing that Trump was behind such an effort, including directing others to mislead federal authorities.

Far from being similar to the recent discovery of classified documents at the homes of President Biden and former Vice President Pence, both of whom say they immediately handed over classified materials and have been cooperating in ongoing DOJ investigations, Trump sought out advice from lawyers and advisers on how he might hold on to the restricted documents, the Post reported. Evidence has also emerged showing that after receiving a subpoena for the return of classified materials, Trump looked through boxes at Mar-a-Lago where they may have been kept. Given a chance by Fox News host Sean Hannity to knock down the reporting that he personally went through the boxes containing classified documents, Trump seemed to do just the opposite.

Judge Howell also ruled last month that Trump lawyer M. Evan Corcoran must sit for questioning before the Washington grand jury investigating the handling of classified documents. His testimony before the grand jury, which took place on March 24, lasted over three hours.

As with all the cases in which Trump faces indictment, the former president’s associates and staffers are being compelled to provide potential evidence against him. To date, dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff members have appeared before the grand jury.

Members of the Secret Service detail assigned to protect Trump have also been called to testify, Fox News reported Monday.