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Trump will lose protection from prosecution in January: what proceedings await him

Exactly at noon on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will leave the presidency and become a private person. At the same time, he will also lose one of the main advantages that the head of state in the United States has - complete immunity from prosecution. Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

Last week, hours after the pardon was announced for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, President Trump made it clear that he himself deserves a full pardon.

The head of the White House tweeted a post posted earlier by Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, in which the legislator said that the president should pardon everyone, starting with himself and including employees of his administration.

"The left is thirsty for blood, and they will calm down only if they can pursue those who fought alongside Donald Trump for the interests of the Americans," the congressman explained.

According to the US Constitution, the President has the right to declare a pardon for any citizen of the country, regardless of the severity of the crimes committed. Trump has taken advantage of this opportunity over the past four years.

The long list of those exempted from criminal responsibility includes a close friend and adviser to the presidential campaign headquarters Roger Stone, convicted of perjury and attempts to intimidate witnesses, ex-New York police chief Bernard Kerick, prosecuted for tax fraud, former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, caught on extortion, and convicted of fraud media mogul Konrad Black.

According to a long-standing tradition, the outgoing president announces the loudest pardons before leaving the White House forever. Washington does not exclude that in the coming weeks Trump may sign a decree on pardoning himself, thereby avoiding possible criminal prosecution in the future.

What will Trump lose?

According to the New York Times, in the past four years, Trump has been involved in exactly 30 civil and criminal cases related to his election campaign, taxes and companies belonging to him. This list also includes several lawsuits against the President for the protection of honor and dignity, already accepted by the courts for consideration.

Until now, the president's lawyers have managed to insist on the postponement of the court hearings, citing the immunity of the head of state. According to lawyers from the US Department of Justice, who represented the interests of the head of the White House in the courts, the content of any documents related to Trump also cannot be disclosed in a public hearing.

All of these arguments will expire at noon on January 20, 2021. In addition, the ex-president will not be able to count on the help of representatives of the Department of Justice.

Experts admit that on some of the charges, Trump could face a real prison sentence. Most, however, agree that most likely the court hearings will end with the payment of substantial fines and compensation to the victims.

"There is not a single federal or local law that would prevent the ex-president from being sentenced to imprisonment, but there has never been such a precedent in the history of the United States, so the courts are unlikely to take such a radical step," - explained in a conversation with the Russian service Bi -BC Richard Frolick, Columbia Law School Lecturer.

Another problem for Trump may be the public disclosure of the details of his business deals and bank loans. Over the past four years, the President of the United States has consistently refused to disclose the data of his tax returns, citing the fact that they have been audited all this time.

According to Forbes magazine, the debts of companies owned by Trump are more than $ 1 billion, and in the next two years the former businessman will have to pay creditors in excess of $ 450 million.

On the subject: Biden Creates Inaugural Committee and Launches Site with Themed Products

What threatens Trump?

Most of the lawsuits Trump should worry about will come from his hometown, New York.

In 2018, the President's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to violating the rules for the use of funds received on the campaign accounts.

According to the materials of the indictment, before the 2016 elections, he paid the star of explicit films Stormy Daniels $ 130 thousand for nondisclosure of information about her sexual relationship with Trump. The money was transferred from the candidate's campaign account.

The name of the payer was not mentioned in the documents of the case. He was featured as “Individual-1”, but prosecutors were quick to clarify that he was also a successful presidential candidate.

The Federal Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which was preparing an indictment against Michael Cohen, then decided not to bring any charges against the incumbent president, citing the immunity of the head of state. Nevertheless, the prepared materials on the case became the reason for the initiation of criminal cases against Trump.

For example, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance launched an investigation into “possible large-scale and long-term criminal offenses” owned by the president of the Trump Organization. Potential charges include tax and insurance fraud, and asset manipulation.

It is a criminal offense under New York State law to undervalue assets to generate additional profits.

As part of his deal with the investigation, the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that Trump used double-entry bookkeeping in his business: one in which assets were overvalued to obtain loans and credits, and another, which indicated an undervalued value, to minimize taxes.

As the New Nork Times found out, the use of this scheme allowed Trump to not pay income taxes at all for 10 years. In the two years that he did pay the government, he paid only $ 750 a year.

The district attorney's office has already formally demanded from law firm Mazars USA LLC to provide Trump's tax filings for the past eight years.

In October 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president's immunity does not apply to a decision to transfer these documents to the Manhattan prosecutor's office.

Trump's lawyers tried to appeal against the Supreme Court verdict, but lost all appeals in lower courts. At the last moment, the president's legal team again appealed to the Supreme Court, demanding to ban the transfer of documents "due to extraordinary circumstances related to the position of the defendant."

The final decision on the case has not yet been made, but lawyers believe that Trump is unlikely to face criminal charges.

“For forging business records, New York City law is punishable by a year in prison and a fine, or probation with compensation,” says Richard Frolick. - But in court, representatives of the prosecutor's office need to prove that Trump personally gave orders to forge documents, and not one of his subordinates. Most likely, this very argument will become the main line of defense ”.

Another investigation into the outgoing US president is being led by New York State Attorney General Laetitia James. Court documents mention four Trump Organization development projects in the city and state of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as a failed attempt by a businessman to buy the Buffalo Bills American football team.

According to the prosecution, the current head of the White House overstated the value of his assets in order to obtain bank loans.

In March 2019, the state attorney general's office sent formal requests for submission of relevant documents to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank. We are still talking about charges in the framework of civil proceedings, but Attorney General James has already said that she is ready to transfer the case file to the district attorney's office if she manages to detect signs of criminal offenses.

What do women have to do with it?

In recent years, several women have accused Trump of sexual harassment and violence.

In her book, published in 2019, journalist Jean Carroll stated that Trump raped her 20 years ago in a fitting room of a clothing store. The US President denied these accusations, saying that they were made only to increase sales of the book, and Carroll herself is generally "not his type."

In response, the journalist filed a lawsuit for the protection of honor and dignity, accusing Trump of false accusations against her.

US Department of Justice lawyers, representing the president's interests, secured the transfer of the case from the New York state court to the federal court, insisting that Trump's words cannot be a reason for legal proceedings, since they are protected by the immunity of the head of state.

At the end of October this year, the judge rejected the petition of the lawyers of the head of state. The next consideration of the claim should take place when Trump is a private person and in this status will be obliged to give explanations in court and, possibly, agree to the necessary examinations, including DNA analysis.

A similar lawsuit against the president in early 2017 was filed by the former participant of the television show "The Apprentice" Summer Zervos. She stated that during filming, Trump kissed her forcibly and grabbed her by the chest.

The President agreed to testify in court, but, at the insistence of his lawyers, hearings on the case can begin only after the decision of the New York State Court of Appeals, due in the middle of next year.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

Can Trump have mercy on himself?

According to the American media, citing its own sources in the administration, since 2017, Trump has repeatedly asked his advisers whether he can officially sign an order to pardon himself and his family members.

“When he found out that he had this right, it became his obsession,” said a former senior CNN administration official.

Meanwhile, lawyers in the United States have not yet come to a consensus on whether the president of the country can, with one stroke of the pen, absolve himself of responsibility for any crime.

The second paragraph of the second article of the US Constitution actually reads: "The President should ... have the right to grant deferrals and pardon for crimes against the United States."

But so far not a single president in US history has dared to exercise this right when it comes to himself. Following the voluntary resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, the Department of Justice issued a special clarification, stating that such a pardon was not possible "under the fundamental rule that no one can act as a judge in their own case."

President Nixon, however, did not need this clarification: shortly after his resignation, he was fully pardoned by his successor as President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

According to lawyers in Washington, Donald Trump can take advantage of this very precedent, voluntarily resigning from his presidency on the eve of his inauguration on January 20, and thus giving Vice President Mike Pence the right to pardon his former boss.

True, according to US law, a presidential pardon applies only to federal crimes and does not apply to criminal and civil cases that are considered by district and district courts. So none of the investigations currently underway in New York will be terminated.

Despite the doubts of experts, Trump himself seems to be confident that he has every right to take such a step.

“As it has already been stated by numerous experts in jurisprudence, I have the absolute right to pardon myself, but why should I do this if I have not done anything illegal?” The president wrote on Twitter in 2018.

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