The legal pressure on Donald Trump is building. Prosecutions on charges related to the multiple inquiries into the former US president have yet to be laid, but all the signs are that they can hardly be far away.
Monday’s unprecedented raid by the FBI on a former president’s home, in search of improperly – potentially criminally – retained classified presidential papers and the news that on Wednesday he was facing questioning under oath from the New York attorney general’s office over his business affairs, are both signs of the serious intent of prosecutors. On Tuesday the DC circuit court of appeals ruled that a House committee can obtain Trump’s tax returns from the US revenue.
Predictably, Trump and his allies have screamed blue murder, talking of “weaponisation” of the Justice Department, an attack on democracy, and an unprecedented political witch-hunt. It is certainly unusual in US politics – though Trump himself is pretty much sui generis.
Prosecutions of former leaders are not by any means unknown in democracies. Two recent French presidents, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, were found guilty of corruption, with the latter facing a year in prison if he loses his appeal. South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu are both embroiled in corruption trials, while Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva served a year in jail on similar charges. In South Korea, two of the country’s last three ex-presidents are in jail.
Alongside the New York probe into allegations that he fraudulently misrepresented the value of his assets to obtain loans, and the Justice Department questions about the retention of records, Trump also faces serious inquiries into his involvement in efforts to reverse his election loss and a House inquiry into his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And a district attorney in Georgia is investigating potential election interference by him and his allies.
Whether all this will help, or hinder, Trump’s desire for a second presidential campaign remains very much open to question.