The Manhattan indictments may not even present the biggest legal threat to Donald Trump.

The Manhattan indictments may not even present the biggest legal threat to Donald Trump.

The other three

Donald Trump is expected to turn himself in to the Manhattan authorities today. Further down, you can read about the latest developments and what to expect today.


I also want to devote part of today’s newsletter to the other three criminal investigations of Trump — because at least one of them could end up being more significant than the charges in Manhattan, both legally and politically.




For one thing, some legal experts view the Manhattan case skeptically. The closest analogy to it may be the 2012 trial of John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate, who was accused of violating campaign-finance law by hiding payments to cover up an extramarital affair. Jurors acquitted Edwards of one charge and deadlocked on the others, a reminder that many people are uncomfortable criminalizing scandals that revolve around consensual sex.


The political impact of sex scandals is similarly questionable. Trump has a long, public history of cheating on his wives, as any reader of New York’s tabloid newspapers knows. It did not keep him from being elected president any more than Bill Clinton’s reputation for infidelity kept him from winning in 1992. Clinton also lied about an affair while he was president — under oath, no less — but many Americans nonetheless believed he should remain in the job.


The case against Trump could turn out differently, of course: He could be convicted. Even if he is, though, the charges do not seem likely to change many voters’ views of Trump.


Two of the other three investigations into Trump are somewhat different. They are about democracy, not sex, and there is already reason to believe that they are more politically threatening to him.


One of the two is a federal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The second involves those same efforts, but only in Georgia, where local prosecutors are looking into his failed attempt to overturn the result. Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will bring charges in either case.


Both stem from Trump’s rejection of basic democratic principles that other leaders of both parties have long accepted — that the loser of an election should concede; that politicians should not tell brazen and repeated lies; that violence is an unacceptable political tactic. Over the past few years, a small — but crucial — slice of voters who are otherwise sympathetic to the Republican Party have indicated that they are uncomfortable with Trump’s attacks on democracy.


In 2020, he became only the fourth president in the past century to lose re-election, even as Republican congressional candidates fared better than expected. Last year, Trump’s preferred candidates performed about five percentage points worse than otherwise similar Republicans, my colleague Nate Cohn estimates. As a result, every election denier who ran to oversee elections in a battleground state last year lost.


An indictment and a trial in either the Jan. 6 case or the Georgia case would again focus attention on Trump’s anti-democratic behavior. Most of his supporters would probably stick by him, but the cases probably present a greater risk to his standing with swing voters than a case revolving around the cover-up of an affair. And if polls were to show Trump clearly losing a hypothetical rematch with President Biden, some Republican primary voters might become nervous, hurting Trump in the primaries.


I’m not predicting that outcome or any other specific scenario. There is a great deal of uncertainty about Trump’s legal problems and the 2024 election. I merely want to remind you that while attention will understandably focus on the Manhattan case this week, Trump’s legal problems are larger than this one case.


Here’s our overview of the other three cases, compiled by my colleague Ian Prasad Philbrick.


1. Jan. 6

This is a federal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The investigation appears to be focusing on Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack, on attempts by him and his allies to recruit fake presidential electors in key states, and on their fund-raising off false voter-fraud claims.


Typically, the Justice Department tries to avoid taking actions that could influence the outcome of a campaign that has formally begun. (James Comey’s rejection of this tradition in the Hillary Clinton email case was a major exception.) If Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing this Trump inquiry, follows the tradition, Smith may make an announcement about whether to bring charges well before the end of this year.


“He wants to resolve things quickly. But we cannot say how quickly,” my colleague Alan Feuer, who’s been covering the case, said.


2. Georgia

After Trump lost the 2020 election, he pressured Georgia’s top elections official “to find 11,780 votes,” enough to overturn his defeat. A grand jury investigating those efforts heard from 75 witnesses, including Rudy Giuliani and Lindsey Graham, and recommended that prosecutors charge multiple people with crimes. It’s unclear whether Trump is among them, because much of the grand jury’s report remains secret. But the jury’s forewoman has hinted he was among them.


The charges could include attempted election fraud and racketeering related to Trump’s involvement in a plan to recruit fake presidential electors. Prosecutors will likely decide whether to charge anyone by next month.


3. Government documents

The third case — involving the handling of classified documents — is probably less threatening to Trump, at least from a political standpoint. Many politicians, apparently including Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, have broken the rules for handling classified material. It’s partly a reflection of what many experts consider the over-classification of documents, including many that contain mundane information.


Trump’s case does seem more extreme, however. He not only took hundreds of classified documents from the White House but also repeatedly resisted giving many of them back. Charges could include obstruction of justice for defying a subpoena. Smith is overseeing this inquiry as well, and the timing of a resolution remains unknown.


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