Donald Trump is about to enter a world where he will no longer have the legal protections offered by the White House in the face of multiple probes and financial difficulties.
Without that protection and an acquiescent Attorney General ( William Barr resigned this week), the Justice Department (DOJ) will be free to pursue a number of matters that could result in criminal prosecution.
In addition, he is facing both civil and criminal investigations in New York that are looking into alleged tax fraud involving his personal and businesses finances.
But his legal exposure goes beyond that and stems from Trump’s 2016 campaign ties to Russia investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
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Although the Mueller report led to no direct charges, it highlighted 10 instances where the President allegedly obstructed justice and referred 14 other matters to various jurisdictions for further investigation.
Those 14 “matters” have never been publicized, but could become the subject of renewed investigation now that Trump is leaving office.
In an ominous interview not widely covered by major media outlets, Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe told CNN last month that classified intelligence from bureau’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign could cast the president “in a very negative light.”
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The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the origin of the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. McCabe has been a central figure in the probe.
The focus of the investigation is Trump’s long-held assertion that he was “framed” by the FBI. He’s repeatedly called the investigation a witch hunt.
McCabe told the committee he personally approved the decision to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice.
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The committee is looking to discredit the investigation, but McCabe told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, it could have the opposite effect if classified information is released.
Trump tweeted in October that he would “fully authorize” the declassification of Russia investigation records. But the Justice Department quickly walked back his comment and ruled the Mueller investigation out of bounds.
McCabe warned that “some very, very serious, very specific, undeniable intelligence” had not come out. If it were released “it would also risk casting the president in a very negative light .”
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“It’s almost incomprehensible to me that he would want that information out; I don’t see how he spins it into his advantage, because quite frankly, I don’t believe it’s flattering,” he said.
McCabe also said release of the information would risk compromising access to information in the future.
“The original version of that report was classified at the absolute highest level I have ever seen. We’re talking about top secret, compartmentalized code word stuff, and it would be tragic to American intelligence collection for those sources to be put at risk,” he said.
Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey in 2017 after Comey refused to close an investigation into the president’s campaign, or say publicly that Trump was not under investigation.
“It became pretty clear to us that he did not want us to continue investigating what the Russians had done,” McCabe said.
“We had many reasons at that point to believe that the president might himself pose a danger to national security and that he might have engaged in obstruction of justice, if the firing of the director and those other things were geared towards elimination or stopping our investigation of Russian activity.”
New revelations may also be lurking in Trump’s personal papers which have been sequestered at the White House under a Top Secret classification.
Trump is required by law to preserve all documents related to his time in office. A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to prevent Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House from destroying government records before leaving office.
The Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of all official records.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and several Washington, D.C. historical groups charge that Trump may attempt to destroy records in order to avoid legal scrutiny.
Trump is still battling in court to prevent the release of his tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. The matter is before the Supreme Court.
An anonymous leaker provided the New York Times with the tax returns, and The Times made the information public in an eye-opening expose.
A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit’s Court of Appeals has already ruled that Trump’s accountants, Mazars, must give his tax returns and related documents to a New York grand jury.
The supporting documents in conjunction with the returns could show that Trump or members of his family knowingly committed crimes.
In the Supreme Court case, Trump v. Vance, the high court has already held, with a few now inapplicable exceptions, that Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen.
The court granted him one more appeal and the matter has been pending since before the election. Now that Trump is out of office, the issue may be moot.
The president also owes an estimated $340 million to Deutsche Bank—all of which is mortgaged against troubled properties that are tied up in allegations of money laundering for Russian oligarchs loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An estimated $45 million of outstanding Deutsche Bank debt comes due in 2024, according to Forbes. Trump has reportedly agreed to personally guarantee the loans.
Prosecuting a former president would be unusual. The country has sought, since its founding, to sweep aside a departing commander-in-chief’s alleged transgressions in favor of a peaceful transition of power, according to the Associated Press.
But given the widespread nature of the allegations, Trump may be an exception to that rule.