Trump may find himself in post-election trouble without the protections afforded to a sitting president.
Donald Trump finds himself starring down the prospect of life after the presidency this week, as Americans head to the polls to cast their ballots.
Among those things commandeering his attention on Tuesday: the numerous protracted legal battles in which he and his family business are now entangled.
Attorney General William Barr, the Supreme Court, and a host of federal judges appointed by Trump have managed to stave off dozens of lawsuits thus far, under the guise of executive privilege and controversial rules that say a sitting president may not be charged with a crime. But there will be no post-election immunity should Trump lose control of the White House this week.
Some of the most dire cases facing Trump revolve around allegations of sexual assault which plagued his 2016 run and have continued to surface throughout his first term. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's former reality show, "The Apprentice," has a pending defamation case against Trump that could be taken up again post election.
Zervos's suit centers around multiple instances of alleged sexual assault, all of which the president has denied. The case is currently on pause, but an election defeat this week could turn one of his lawyers' chief arguments — that a sitting president isn't subject to defamation suits — on its head, leaving Trump out in the cold.
Last year, journalist E. Jean Carroll also sued Trump for defamation after he denied her accusation that he had raped her in a dressing room in the 1990s. Trump tried to force the Justice Department to intervene on his behalf, his lawyers arguing that he had rejected her claims in his role as president. But last month a federal judge ruled that the case could proceed against Trump, setting up a tumultuous lawsuit that could eventually compel him to provide a DNA sample — something Carroll had requested — and potentially face grave legal repercussions for his role in the alleged assault.
Trump is also facing legal troubles on the business front.
Both New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance are investigating Trump over a number of tax and finance allegations. Vance, who has been working with Trump's longtime lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen, has inched closer to seizing Trump's tax returns in recent weeks, part of an effort to uncover possible tax fraud or falsification of business records, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, James has said in recent days that, win or lose, her office will continue looking into the Trump Organization to assess whether it illegally inflated its assets to gain tax breaks and business loans.
"We will continue that investigation, and at this point in time there's nothing more that I can say other than the fact that they have used every legal attempt to block and to deny us information and to witnesses," James said last month.
That could spell major trouble if Trump fails to win reelection on Tuesday.
As Jane Mayer noted in the New Yorker on Sunday, "Because [James and Vance's] jurisdictions lie outside the federal realm, any indictments or convictions resulting from their actions would be beyond the reach of a Presidential pardon."
Trump has mostly kept quiet on the issue of any post-election legal frenzy, but may have accidentally shown his hand at a campaign rally last week in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Trump seemed to forecast some of his pre-election nerves at that event, telling truck drivers gathered to hear him speak, "You think I could hop into one of [these trucks] and drive it away? I'd love to do — just drive the hell out of here, just get the hell out of this."
He added, somewhat darkly, "I had such a good life. My life was great. And then I said, 'Let's do this, darling. This will be a lot of fun."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.