Blogs August 29, 2023

Understanding the Trump Criminal Cases 

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Last updated: August 29, 2023

Former President Donald Trump has been charged in four criminal investigations, two of which are directly related to attempts to overturn the will of the people in elections.  

Each investigation is overseen by a prosecutor, whose job is to follow the law and to follow the facts wherever they lead. Of the four criminal investigations underway as of August 2023, two are overseen by federal prosecutors and two are overseen by county prosecutors in two states. Each investigation has also been considered by a grand jury made up of everyday Americans. Their job is to examine the facts and determine whether criminal charges are warranted.   

Citizens have the power to hold our elected leaders accountable under the law. That’s a sign of a healthy democracy. Here are the basics of each case.  

Federal Cases 

Classified Documents Case – Charges Filed (Federal; Based in Florida) 

Trump has been indicted on 40 criminal counts related to his handling of classified documents after he left office. He became the first U.S. president, sitting or former, to face federal criminal charges. The initial indictment, filed in June, included 37 criminal counts against Trump. Prosecutors added three counts in an updated indictment in July. The prosecution is overseen by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.  

The indictment alleges that Trump:  

  • Kept classified documents, which included military and nuclear secrets, at his home in Florida when he was not authorized to retain them; 
  • Tried to block the government’s attempts to get these documents back; 
  • Sought to have security footage deleted to hide information about the whereabouts of the documents from federal investigators; and 
  • Showed a top-secret military presentation to four people who were not authorized to see it. 

One of Trump’s personal aides, Walt Nauta, and a property manager, Carlos De Oliveira, have also been charged. Trump, Nauta, and de Oliveira have all pleaded not guilty.

What’s next: The federal judge overseeing the case, Aileen Cannon, has set a trial date of May 20, 2024, although that date could change.  


2020 Election Interference Case – Charges Filed (Federal; Based in Washington, D.C.) 

Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is also overseeing an investigation into Trump’s attempt to stay in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election.   

This investigation into potential election interference seeks to determine whether anyone broke the law “in connection with efforts to interfere with the lawful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021,” according to Smith’s appointment order.  

On Aug. 1, a grand jury of everyday Americans, convened by the Justice Department, charged Trump with four crimes related to 2020 presidential election interference: one count of conspiracy to violate rights, one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of obstructing an official proceeding, and one count of conspiring to obstruct.  

The indictment also references six co-conspirators. The indictment alleges that Trump, despite having lost the election, tried to remain in power by espousing lies about purported mass voter fraud, disregarding Vice President Pence, senior officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, and attorneys with the White House Counsel office who countered these claims of fraud. The indictment also alleges that Trump and the conspirators tried to get state, local, and federal officials to act to change the vote results in seven targeted states.  

In the lead-up to this indictment, the grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who testified in late April.   

One focus of the investigation is the so-called fake electors scheme: In seven states, groups of Republicans signed official-looking documents presenting themselves as either duly authorized or potential alternate presidential electors for Trump, even though Joe Biden had won the presidential election in each state. Subpoenas were reportedly also sent to state and local officials in these seven states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

What’s next: Trump has pleaded not guilty. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee the case, set a trial date of March 4, 2024. She has ordered Trump not to disclose sensitive information.

Read more: States United has a complete backgrounder on the charges. 

State Cases 

Georgia Election Interference Case – Charges Filed  (State; Based in Georgia) 

Trump and 18 other people have been charged with a total of 41 felony counts related to Trump’s attempt to reverse his loss in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. The charges were brought in an indictment issued Aug. 14 by a grand jury of everyday citizens in Fulton County, Georgia.  

The investigation is overseen by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. 

The other defendants include lawyers who worked for Trump, the former White House chief of staff, a former Justice Department official, and a former senior official from the Trump campaign. Three of Georgia’s so-called fake electors, who signed a certificate claiming to be duly qualified presidential electors even though Trump lost the state, were charged, as was an elections supervisor in a rural Georgia county. 

The indictment was brought under Georgia’s racketeering law. It alleges that the 19 defendants, along with 30 unnamed co-conspirators, formed a criminal enterprise for the purpose of keeping Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election. As part of that enterprise, according to the indictment, the defendants: 

  • Knowingly made false statements about supposed election fraud to Georgia legislators at three hearings 
  • Knowingly made false statements made to Georgia state officials, and attempted to get those officials to violate their oaths by changing the election outcome 
  • Created and formally submitted false documents signed by the fake electors 
  • Harassed and intimidated a Fulton County election worker 
  • Encouraged high-ranking Justice Department officials to make false statements about election fraud to Georgia state officials 
  • Encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to violate the law and the Constitution by rejecting Georgia’s legitimate electors 
  • Breached election equipment in Coffee County 
  • Filed other false documents, made other false statements, and committed perjury 

A special grand jury interviewed dozens of witnesses over eight months and turned in its final report recommending indictments in January 2023. The special grand jury did not have the power to issue indictments. The indictment of the 19 defendants was issued by a separate grand jury.

Trump and the 18 other defendants each surrendered in late August at the Fulton County Jail, where they were booked and had mug shots taken. 

What’s next: The case has been assigned to Judge Scott McAfee. Trump has not been assigned a trial date. The first of his co-defendants to receive a trial schedule was Kenneth Chesebro, whose trial was set for Oct. 23, 2023. 

Read more: States United has a complete backgrounder on the charges. 


New York Hush Money Case – Charges Filed (State; Based in New York) 

In March, Trump was indicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide damaging information from voters before and after the 2016 election. This investigation is overseen by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.  

According to the indictment and an accompanying statement of facts, Trump authorized a $130,000 payment to an adult film star to prevent her from going public about an affair with Trump. He then reimbursed the lawyer who made the payment and falsified business records to cover it up, prosecutors say. Trump has pleaded not guilty.  

What’s next: The state judge overseeing the case, Juan Merchan, set a trial date of March 25, 2024.