Donald Trump’s Legal Troubles Are Just Getting Started

When he faced prosecutors in New York yesterday, Donald Trump appeared worried about pending cases against him in Washington, DC, and Georgia. Those charges are far more serious than the New York case, indicating that his problems have only just begun.

Donald Trump with his defense team during his arraignment at court in New York, on April 4, 2023. (Andrew Kelly / Reuters / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Donald Trump was formally charged Tuesday in Manhattan with thirty-four felonies related to the funding of three nondisclosure agreements he made during his 2016 presidential campaign — two with former sexual partners and one with a doorman at Trump Tower.

Unable to muster the chaos on the streets he initially hoped for, Trump played it safe, saying nothing before the hearing and nothing of substance in court. Pro- and anti-Trump protesters, including a handful of elected officials, squabbled with one another outside the courthouse, but the scene was tame compared to the chaos of the January 6 riots.

As Trump flew back to Florida after the hearing, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg made his case to the public in a press conference. Amid skepticism that the allegations really amounted to felonies, Bragg underlined what he viewed as the seriousness of the charges, saying Trump’s alleged bookkeeping fraud in misreporting the nature of the “hush money” payments was also an attempt to avoid federal campaign laws and New York state tax laws. Prosecutors asked for a January 2024 trial, while Trump’s team said it needed at least until spring of that year to prepare.

Safely ensconced back in his Florida mansion, Trump gave a typically strident response. “They can’t beat us at the ballot box, so they try to beat us through the law,” he said. Perhaps sensing that his legal woes are just beginning, Trump then turned to the potential cases against him in Georgia and Washington, DC, personally insulting investigators and demanding with characteristic bluster that those cases be dismissed.

No charges have yet been filed in those cases, but at least in Georgia, a member of the grand jury has publicly suggested that a number of Trump’s very close associates, and perhaps Trump himself, will face indictment.

It is significant that on the day he faced prosecutors in New York, Trump was already turning his focus to the other cases. The cases being investigated by Georgia prosecutors and by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are much more consequential than the New York allegations, both for Trump and the country as a whole. All three investigations (one in Georgia and two interrelated cases at the DOJ) are concerned with Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in office despite losing the vote.

The cases also implicate members of the Republican elite. This appears to be more literally true in Georgia, where the grand jury foreperson said they had recommended charges for more than twelve Trump associates in a scheme to falsify the results of the presidential election. It is also true in a broader sense in the investigations into the events of January 6, 2021. Though there has been little suggestion they are facing criminal investigation, many Republicans in Congress deliberately delayed the formalities at the Capitol that day, in what certainly appeared like an attempt to buy time for the rioters to stop the proceedings by force.

Compared to the case in New York, the charges in those cases are much more serious, the fallout is much more potentially damaging to the conservative movement as a whole, and the evidence is much stronger. Even if they aren’t the full solution, let’s hope that charges in those cases come. As for Trump, with his presidential campaign receiving surprisingly little attention up to this point, he’s now subject to the age-old curse of getting what he wanted. He’s guaranteed to remain in the spotlight.