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.
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.
The Washington Post reported on July 26 that Trump’s statements and behavior have also become part of the investigation, with prosecutors seeking phone records and other information from his inner circle and questioning top aides to former vice president Mike Pence before a federal grand jury. Investigators are examining, among other things, what Trump did or said in connection to the fake-elector schemes, and his efforts to pressure his Justice Department and some state officials to question — without evidence — the results of the 2020 election.
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.” Trump critics have long complained that Garland is moving too slowly.
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 won permission to convene a special-purpose grand jury to aid her investigation, and has identified more that 100 people of interest in the criminal probe. Multiple high-profile officials and Trump allies have been subpoenaed to testify.
In July, the judge overseeing the case disqualified Willis from building a case against state Sen. Sen. Burt Jones (R), who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Willis hosted a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Charlie Bailey, which the judge said created a potential conflict of interest. A separate district attorney’s office will now oversee Jones’s role in the criminal case.
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: Some witnesses have already testified before the grand jury, some are fighting the subpoenas.
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 in early 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 has vowed to appeal; 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.
The Mar-a-Lago boxes investigation
What is it: The FBI executed a search on Monday of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
The Justice Department is investigating how 15 boxes of White House records — including some highly classified material — made their way to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Officials with the National Archives and Records Administration asked the Justice Department to investigate after finding materials clearly marked as classified in the boxes, which they had asked Trump to turn over to their agency. A grand jury issued a subpoena in connection with the probe in May. The House Oversight Committee is also looking into the matter.
On Aug. 8, Trump issued a statement in which he equated the raid to Watergate. Trump accused the FBI of “even” breaking into his safe. He provided no further details on what federal agents were looking for, or what else happened during their visit.
What’s at stake: Mishandling classified information is a federal crime that could lead to prison time. 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 could have political consequences, even if it doesn’t produce legal ones. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who was 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.
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), appeared to lose momentum this spring, after two leading prosecutors resigned and witnesses stopped appearing before a grand jury. Bragg has said he will make a public announcement if his office decides to close the case without charges.
Attorney General Letitia James (D) is still pursuing a parallel civil probe of Trump’s business practices. She could file a lawsuit alleging wrongdoing and seeking financial penalties or other noncriminal remedies. In April, a judge held Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with an order to turn over records to James’s office, ordering a $10,000 a day penalty. The penalty was lifted after Trump paid $110,000 and provided sworn testimony that records searches had been completed and nothing James was seeking was recovered.
What’s next: Trump and two of his adult children were scheduled to sit for depositions in James’s lawsuit in July, but the questioning was postponed and a new schedule has not been announced.
Bragg’s office is still pursuing a criminal case against the Trump Organization and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who were charged in 2021 with conducting a 15-year tax avoidance scheme involving compensation to executives, including apartments, cars and other unreported benefits. That case could be tried later this year.
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, 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.