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5 different legal questions looming over Donald Trump this week

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While former President Donald Trump’s path through Republican primaries is clearing up, he faces looming unanswered questions in multiple different courts.

Keeping track of the complicated and ever-evolving web of Trump-related court cases is nearly impossible, but some key developments are expected in the coming days and weeks, long before questions of his guilt or innocence in four criminal trials later this year.

Is Trump’s New York business career over?

New York state Judge Arthur Engoron, who previously ruled that the former president engaged in fraud, could rule at any moment how much Trump will have to pay for inflating his wealth to get the friendly loans that helped build his real estate empire. New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked for $370 million.

There is also the question of whether Trump can still do business in the state. Engoron had already ordered the dissolution of Trump’s New York real estate empire, which is on hold pending Trump’s appeal.

Status: Closing arguments wrapped earlier this month, and Engoron said he hopes to issue a decision by Wednesday. Expect appeals no matter what happens.

Is Trump immune from prosecution?

A three-judge panel for a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, is weighing Trump’s claim that presidents enjoy “absolute” immunity from prosecution.

While the judges seemed deeply skeptical of the idea that presidents should be completely above the law, the question needs to be answered before Trump can be prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The US Supreme Court has, for now, declined to take up the case, because justices wanted this particular appeals court panel to weigh in. Trump’s trial date in that election interference case is still currently scheduled for March 4, but that date seems more unlikely with each passing day as we await word on Trump’s immunity claim. His other three criminal trials would follow.

Status: The panel heard oral arguments on January 9 and could rule at any time.

Can Trump be barred from primary ballots for being an insurrectionist?

While the Supreme Court has for now declined to consider if Trump can be prosecuted, the justices are gearing up to decide if he can be barred from state ballots for being an insurrectionist.

They are set to decide a case out of Colorado, where one judge found after hearing testimony that Trump did engage in insurrection and the state Supreme Court ruled that he should be kept off the state’s primary ballot as a result.

Trump will remain on the ballot for Colorado’s primary pending the Supreme Court decision. The case is specifically focused on Colorado, and Maine is the only other state to disqualify Trump from the primary ballot.

But there are lawsuits around the country that could be affected by the court decision. In Illinois, the bipartisan state elections board declined Tuesday to remove Trump from the ballot, sending the question there to state courts.

Status: Supreme Court oral arguments are scheduled for February 8. Colorado’s primary is set for Super Tuesday, March 5.

Will Trump be prosecuted in Georgia by Fani Willis?

There are allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had an inappropriate relationship with a prosecutor she hired for the election subversion case against Trump and more than a dozen alleged co-conspirators. While the situation is unlikely, at least for now, to kill the case against Trump, Willis’ position at the helm is very much in question.

Georgia’s state Senate has launched a special investigation. The questions about Willis are distinct from the larger issue of whether Trump should be convicted for trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, but they have been a gift to Trump as he and his allies seek to discredit the prosecution in the court of public opinion.

RELATED: What to know about the Fani Willis allegations and the election subversion case

Status: Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled a hearing on Willis for February 15.

Will Trump have to pay $458.3 million?

The back-of-the-envelope total of what he could be ordered to pay in civil penalties is an astronomical sum, even for a man who claims to be a multibillionaire.

$370 million at stake in New York civil fraud trial. As noted above, Engoron is expected to rule any day in the New York fraud trial.

$88.3 million awarded in defamation trial. A federal jury in New York found last week that Trump must pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll, the woman he was found liable for sexually assaulting in the 1990s. A separate New York jury also found last year that he must pay Carroll $5 million.

Trump is appealing the Carroll-related decisions and is sure to appeal any adverse decision in the civil fraud trial.

Still, that’s a combined $458.3 million he could eventually have to pay.

Side question: How much money does Trump have? It’s not exactly clear. In an ironic twist, his comments bragging about his wealth in an April 2023 deposition in the New York civil fraud trial were played for the jury in the Carroll defamation case.

“We have a lot of cash,” Trump told lawyers from the New York attorney general’s office. “I believe we have substantially in excess of $400 million in cash, which is a lot for a developer. Developers usually don’t have cash. They have assets, not cash. We have, I believe, $400-plus and going up very substantially every month.”

Professional guestimators at Forbes and Bloomberg have suggested Trump could have somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 million in liquid assets or cash and personal assets. When he launched his current presidential campaign, Trump was required to file a financial disclosure form, but it is an imprecise gauge of wealth.

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