Trump is now facing inquiries run by elected officials from Georgia to New York to Washington with only their constituents to answer to. Most are Democrats, but one key investigation was launched by a Georgia Republican who has faced heavy criticism from Trump since the election. And the former President's actions on his way out of office, including his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results and to stir up his supporters with baseless claims of fraud until they stormed the US Capitol on a harrowing January day, have only added to his legal problems. "It's never happened in our history but every single one of these prosecutors and attorneys general has more than sufficient predication to investigate what they're investigating," said Daniel R. Alonso, who was a top deputy to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from 2010 to 2014.
There are signs the probes are picking up. In New York, investigators recently got their hands on Trump's tax returns and have bolstered their team with a prosecutor who specializes in complex financial cases. In Georgia, another prosecutor plans to begin requesting subpoenas from a grand jury as early as this week. "The world has changed for Donald Trump, legally, now that he's no longer president," said Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst. "Donald Trump tried to delay civil suits against him, he tried to delay subpoenas against him while he was president. All of that is gone now, so now we're seeing multiple investigators -- federal and state -- digging in and taking a hard look at Donald Trump."
All eyes on the Empire State
In Manhattan, all eyes are on Vance, who has been investigating Trump's finances for two years and is not expected to run for reelection. The Democrat has 10 months left in his term -- setting the clock, some said, for him to wrap up his investigation. "It's likely that the case, if it is charged, would be charged before Vance leaves office," said Anne Milgram, a former attorney general for New Jersey and former federal prosecutor. "That's because that's 10 months away -- which is a long time in a criminal investigation -- and because the DA's office had previously noted that there were statutes of limitations timing issues," she said. Prosecutors have already interviewed witnesses, subpoenaed documents from lenders, an insurance broker and others, and last month recruited a former federal prosecutor with a background in complex financial investigations to bolster their team. Last week investigators also received a trove of records, including tax returns, financial statements, and communications between the Trump Organization and Mazars, Trump's long-time accountant, after the Supreme Court denied Trump's latest bid to block Vance from accessing those records.
"I think the goal will be to move quickly and, if they believe a crime has been committed, they will move to present the case to the grand jury within months, not years," Milgram said. Vance, the son of a former US secretary of state and Washington insider, spent the better part of his legal career as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. He ran for district attorney and was sworn into office in 2010 after a more than 30-year run by his predecessor Robert Morgenthau.
He has been innovative in pursuing some cases and in 2019, Vance's office obtained the first conviction on state domestic terrorism charges.
But some of his victories have been tinged by controversy.
When Vance brought criminal charges against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault following the rise of the #metoo movement, Weinstein's conviction was hailed as a "new era of justice" by Time's Up, a women's advocacy group. But it came only after an earlier decision in 2015 to decline to prosecute Weinstein after an Italian model accused him of groping her and recorded Weinstein on tape saying, "I won't do it again."
Vance was also criticized for not prosecuting Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who were investigated in 2012 for allegedly misleading potential buyers for units in the Trump SoHo, a New York hotel property. In both instances, lawyers for the individuals had donated to Vance's campaign.
Vance defended himself, telling reporters in 2017 that the donations had no impact on his thinking. His office said the allegations against Weinstein were "horrifying" but there was not sufficient evidence to charge him. "At the end of the day, we operate in the courtroom of the law, not the courtroom of public opinion," Vance said.
Alonso, the former Vance deputy, has previously said sometimes a district attorney is successful by deciding not to file charges. On the Trump investigation, he said, Vance will not be political. "He knows that the job is not to lick your finger and hold it up to the wind and decide which way the wind is blowing before you make a decision," Alonso said. "He will look at the evidence and decide who he believes is guilty and whether he can prove it."