Donald Trump is back in the headlines this week thanks to a major development in one of the many lawsuits he’s facing.
He’s now experiencing his biggest legal blow since he left office in 2020.
The former US president, and his adult children, have been sued by the New York Attorney-General –a saga unrelated to the investigation into the January 6 Capitol riots.
Here’s what you need to know about Mr Trump’s latest challenge, and the status of his various legal woes.
Trump now being sued for fraud
Mr Trump and his company, Trump Organization, have been sued by New York’s Attorney-General for fraud, allegedly padding his net worth by billions of dollars by manipulating the value of assets, including his Mar-a-Lago home.
Attorney-General Letitia James has been conducting a civil investigation into Mr Trump’s business practices for more than three years – making this the biggest development so far.
Mr Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with two longtime company executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.
Ms James said her office uncovered more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations, with 23 assets dubbed “grossly and fraudulently inflated.”
For example, Ms James said Mr Trump valued his Mar-a-Lago estate as highly as $739 million by pretending it could be developed for residential use, when he knew there were restrictions.
Ms James said Mar-a-Lago should have been valued closer to $75 million.
So what does this mean?
Well, the lawsuit accuses Mr Trump of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to convince banks to lend money to his company on more favourable conditions, to satisfy continuing loan terms, to coax insurers to provide coverage for higher limits at lower premiums, to gain tax benefits and other purposes.
The lawsuit is seeking to:
- Have the defendants give up all the benefits Mr Trump obtained from fraud, estimated at $US250 million ($375 million)
- Bar Mr Trump and his children from running companies in the state of New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from engaging in real estate transactions
On top of that, a different criminal probe can now continue
In addition to being sued, a US appeals court has ruled that the Justice Department can resume reviewing classified records seized by the FBI from Mr Trump’s Florida home.
The FBI last month seized roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification markings, during a court-authorised search of the Mar-a-Lago estate.
It gives a boost to the criminal investigation into whether the records were mishandled or compromised.
Even jail might not stop Trump
As Donald Trump faces mounting allegations of impropriety, experts say even a prison sentence wouldn’t necessarily stop him becoming US president for a second time.
The government had argued that its investigation had been impeded by an order from US District Judge Aileen Cannon – who Mr Trump appointed – that temporarily barred investigators from continuing to use the documents in its inquiry.
While it’s a victory for the Justice Department, there are still other legal avenues available to the former US president.
Mr Trump’s lawyers could potentially ask the US Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by him, to intervene in the matter.
And what’s the latest with the January 6 hearings?
The US congressional panel probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol reached an agreement to interview Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in the coming weeks.
The Washington Post has previously reported the committee obtained emails between Ginni Thomas and attorney John Eastman, who advised Donald Trump that then-vice president Mike Pence could thwart formal congressional certification of Trump’s 2020 election loss.
Ms Thomas’ lawyers say she’s “eager to answer the committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election.”
In terms of criminal proceedings, the committee cannot charge Mr Trump with federal crimes.
That decision must be made by the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who authorised the FBI raid on Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
But that’s not all
Mr Trump also faces a criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, for which he has denied wrongdoing.
Plus, the probe conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James is separate from a criminal tax fraud probe against the Trump Organization by Manhattan’s district-attorney, Alvin Bragg.
The company is scheduled to stand trial in October, accused of paying off-the-books benefits to employees.