The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Everywhere Trump turns, prosecutors seem to be breathing down his neck

People make their way past the Trump Tower in New York on Oct. 24. (Leonardo Munoz/Corbis/Getty Images)

The worst news this week for Donald Trump was not the defeat of Herschel Walker, his embarrassingly unfit pick for Georgia’s Senate seat. That’s how bad a week the former president has had — and it’s not over yet.

Instead, Trump’s biggest headaches all have to do with his legal problems, which threaten not only his political future but his wealth and civilian life.

For starters, The Trump Organization, the family real estate venture that generated wealth and fame for him, was convicted on Tuesday on 17 criminal counts, including tax fraud in New York City. The company plans to appeal.

Trump was not personally on trial, but given that he splattered his name across the company’s buildings around the world, he will permanently be linked to its crimes. The potential financial penalty (up to $1.6 million) is the least of his worries.

New lenders will be hard to come by. The conviction and the evidence presented might also become fodder in both the civil case brought against Trump and his company by New York Attorney General Letitia James and the revived criminal investigations under New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Should either of those inquiries go to trial, jurors would likely be told about his company’s conviction.

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And that’s just New York. The Post reports, “Special counsel Jack Smith has sent grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — three states that were central to President Donald Trump’s failed plan to stay in power following the 2020 election — seeking any and all communications with Trump, his campaign, and a long list of aides and allies.”

Anyone who thought the appointment of Smith as special counsel would slow down the Justice Department’s investigation was badly mistaken. If anything, the pace of activity has picked up in both the department’s Jan. 6 investigation and its investigation into classified documents stashed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club (thanks to the recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that shut down Trump’s attempt to recover documents seized by search warrant).

In fact, The Post reported on Wednesday, “Lawyers for former president Donald Trump conducted a search of at least two of his properties for classified materials in recent weeks, after they were instructed by a federal judge to attest they had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings, according to people familiar with the matter.”The Post reported they found two items marked classified and turned them over to the FBI.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House Jan. 6 select committee, announced on Tuesday that the committee will be making criminal referrals to the Justice Department. Those referrals might include Trump, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and any number of attorneys who cooked up the phony elector scheme.

While not legally significant, the committee’s report detailing the tale of Trump’s coup plot and its referral labeling his activity criminal would be unprecedented and possibly debilitating to his already hobbled presidential campaign. The more forums that accuse him of crimes, the more difficult it will be for Republicans to ignore his legal death spiral — and the more improbable his nomination will become.

And even that isn’t the end of it. Michael Flynn, the Trump crony who briefly served as his national security adviser, lost his bid to delay an appearance before the Fulton County, Ga., grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to strong-arm Georgia officials to “find” enough votes for him to win the state and to concoct a phony slate of electors. Flynn is the latest person in Trump’s inner circle who has been compelled to testify. Meadows and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani were also ordered to appear.

It seems everywhere Trump looks, prosecutors are breathing down his neck. It is hard to imagine that so many prosecutors would expend this much time and effort and not indict him. It is not unreasonable to expect one or more criminal cases filed against the former president personally in the coming months.

Trump enjoys the presumption of innocence in court. But in the court of public opinion, and in the political arena, his days seem numbered. Accountability is coming.