The probes threaten Trump with criminal or financial penalties, or plain old public embarrassment, as he remains a dominant presence in his party and weighs a 2024 bid to return to the White House. Here’s a list of the key investigations and where they stand.
The Mar-a-Lago boxes investigation
What is it: The FBI executed a search of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 8, part of a criminal probe into possible mishandling of classified information, as well as possible hiding, tampering or destruction of government records.
The Justice Department is investigating how boxes of White House records — including some highly classified material — made their way to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. After 15 boxes of documents were returned to the National Archives and Records Administration early this year, the archives found classified materials inside and asked the Justice Department to investigate. A grand jury issued a subpoena in connection with the probe in May. When the Justice Department became convinced that not all the documents had been handed over in response to that subpoena, it sought court permission for a search.
The House Oversight Committee is also looking into the matter.
What’s at stake: Mishandling classified information is a federal crime that could lead to prison time. So is hiding, tampering or destroying government records. To substantiate a criminal case, prosecutors would have to prove that Trump or his aides intentionally mishandled the material or were grossly negligent in doing so — a high legal bar, particularly since the president is the ultimate decision-maker on what information should be declassified. In practice, the department reserves criminal charges for those who deliberately mishandle such files. The FBI may also want to assess how widely the classified information may have been disseminated.
The investigation also could have political consequences. Just ask Hillary Clinton, famously investigated for possibly mishandling classified information because of her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. That case ended with damaging revelations — but no charges — just before she lost the 2016 presidential election.
What’s next: A federal judge in Florida granted Trump’s request to have a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI and separate any protected by executive or attorney-client privilege. Raymond J. Dearie, a federal judge based in Brooklyn, was appointed special master and has launched the review process. On Sept. 21, an appeals court overruled the Florida judge and said the special master does not have to review the classified documents and the FBI can resume using them in their criminal probe.
Justice Department criminal probe of Jan. 6
What is it: The Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 riot and has charged hundreds of people who breached the Capitol that day with trespassing, trying to obstruct the vote certification and attacking police officers. Prosecutors also have alleged intricate conspiracies, including those involving the leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, and recently expanded their examination to include the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as well as the decision by Republican electors in some states won by Democrat Joe Biden to send signed statements purporting to affirm Trump as the victor.
Trump’s statements and behavior have also become part of the investigation, with prosecutors seeking a broad range of phone records, emails and grand jury testimony from various former aides and members of his inner circle.
What’s at stake: The big question for most observers is: Could Trump face charges? The answer remains unclear. Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the riot and for “any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another,” and to investigate people “at any level.”
No former president has been charged with a crime in U.S. history. In cases when investigators found evidence suggesting a president engaged in criminal conduct, as with Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, authorities ultimately decided not to pursue such cases — in part to avoid appearing to use government power to punish political enemies and assure the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.
What’s next: Expect more grand jury appearances and more subpoenas, and watch for whether anyone close to the former president will cooperate with federal authorities.
Georgia election results investigation
What is it: Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), an elected prosecutor in the Atlanta area, is investigating efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to “find” enough votes to reverse Biden’s victory. He also called the top Georgia state elections investigator and urged her to identify wrongdoing in the state’s vote, and contacted Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and state Attorney General Chris Carr (R). Prosecutors are scrutinizing Trump’s calls, as well as testimony Trump allies gave to Georgia state lawmakers in December 2020, and the scheme to certify a slate of fake electors from the state to contest the election results.
Where it stands: Willis said in late August that her team has completed interviews with more than half of the necessary witnesses and expects the special-purpose grand jury to issue a report with recommendations before the end of the year. She could then decide whether to bring criminal charges. In September, she told The Washington Post that the allegations are “very serious,” and that if people are indicted and convicted, they could get prison time.
The Fulton County judge presiding over the Georgia grand jury investigation has delayed the testimony of Gov. Brian Kemp (R) until after the upcoming election.
What’s at stake: Willis is investigating possible violations of Georgia state law, including whether anyone illegally solicited election fraud, attempted to “interfere with, hinder, or delay” election administrators’ work, or participated in a criminal conspiracy, legal experts say. But the district attorney is in some uncharted territory, experts said, because these statutes have not been widely used to prosecute election-law cases.
What’s next: At least 17 people have been notified they are targets of the criminal investigation, meaning they could eventually face charges, and more targets are expected, Willis has said.
The Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation
What is it: A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and the events leading up to it held a series of high-profile, televised hearings this summer featuring multiple witnesses — many of them Republicans who are or were close to Trump. While the hearings do not meet the standards of a criminal probe, they offered the fullest account yet of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and his alleged role in provoking the carnage at the Capitol.
Where it stands: The committee interviewed hundreds of witnesses and examined voluminous text messages and other documents, then presented the information it gathered in the carefully produced summer hearings. Lawmakers say they are continuing to speak with new witnesses and more public hearings are possible this fall. The Justice Department has charged two former Trump aides with contempt of Congress for bucking their subpoenas; Stephen K. Bannon was convicted in late July, and former White House trade adviser Peter K. Navarro is scheduled for trial in November.
What’s at stake: The committee can’t charge Trump with a crime. But the Justice Department has asked for copies of witness transcripts and other documents. And the committee could make a formal criminal referral to the Justice Department requesting that the president face specific charges, though any such referral may have little bearing on issues that prosecutors are already investigating.
Trump business practices, criminal and civil probes in New York
What is it: The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York attorney general’s office have both been investigating Trump’s business practices, particularly allegations that he misrepresented the value of his assets to lenders and tax authorities to secure loans and get breaks on his taxes.
Where it stands: The criminal probe, started in 2019 under then-District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and continued this year under his successor, Alvin Bragg (D), resulted in indictments on tax fraud-related charges for the Trump Organization and longtime senior executive Allen Weisselberg. But it appeared to lose momentum this spring, after two leading prosecutors resigned, with one expressing frustration that Bragg had not signed off on an indictment of Trump or his family. Bragg has said he will make a public announcement if his office decides to close the case without charges.
Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a civil lawsuit Sept. 21 against Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization, accusing them of flagrantly manipulating the valuations of their properties to get better terms on loans and insurance policies, and to get tax breaks. The suit seeks to recover more than $250 million in what James’s office says are ill-gotten gains. It also asks the New York Supreme Court to bar Trump, as well as Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, from serving as executives at any company in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from acquiring any commercial real estate or receiving loans from any New York-registered financial institution for five years.
What’s next: Trump, his children and his lawyers have dismissed the inquiry and James’s lawsuit as a politically motivated attack on them and have denied wrongdoing. The litigation probably will stretch on for some time.
In mid-August, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to committing more than a dozen felonies, including criminal tax fraud and grand larceny. The Trump Organization is scheduled for trial on tax-related criminal charges this fall.
Westchester, N.Y., golf club
What is it: Westchester District Attorney Miriam “Mimi” Rocah (D) is investigating property tax records related to one of Trump’s golf clubs in suburban New York.
Where it stands: The status of Rocah’s investigation is murkier than some of the others. In October, 2021, it was reported that her office had subpoenaed property tax records from the town of Ossining, N.Y., which sets property tax rates for the course. The Trump Organization had challenged the property valuation for the club for every year since 2015; that process often involves a company turning over data about a property’s financial performance as evidence that it is worth less than its assessed value.
What’s at stake: Rocah’s probe appears to be similar to Bragg’s in that it is focused on the valuation of a Trump property.
What’s next: A spokeswoman for Rocah has declined to comment on the matter, and it’s unclear what steps investigators have taken or what they might do next.