Donald Trump, by now, is used to getting away with things your everyday, average folks could only dream of. He has not had to face the music for most of his mistakes his entire life.
Having the privilege of being born into a wealthy family, the safety net provided by his father’s money kept him buoyant, despite his lackluster academic performance and numerous business endeavors that ended in failure.
“I often say that I’m a member of the lucky sperm club,” from one of his books, is a rare acknowledgement of luck while discussing his success. When Trump got a taste of being a celebrity following his appearances on reality TV shows, he realized that he could be as predatory as he wanted without consequences.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said in leaked Access Hollywood tapes, referring to not requiring consent when sexually approaching models. And now that he has had a taste of the presidency, he is aware of the legal insulation that the position can provide. “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” he said.
Trump has made it through most problems in life relatively unscathed. Undistinguished grades, the threat of personal bankruptcy, sexual assault accusations, an exhaustive federal investigation and an impeachment have not done much to deter him and have certainly not induced any introspection or regret in the man. His money, celebrity status and more recently, the presidency, have insulated him from the repercussions, but that just means he has not learned from his mistakes.
However, Trump will have to deal with two more threats once he inevitably vacates the White House in January. One of them in financial, while the other one is legal. Neither of them, unfortunately for him, are under his control. This is essentially why Trump has constantly refused to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and why he has called upon the Republican Party to go along with his circus.
Trump and his business empire are weighed down by more than $1 billion in debt, totaled by Dan Alexander of Forbes. A fraction of that amount has been disclosed, in recent years, in the president’s personal financial disclosures, filed by the Office of Government ethics. Trump has personally guaranteed at least $421 million of the debt, according to the New York Times, and more than $300 million is due within the next four years.
A lot of that amount may be difficult to pay back, given the damage Covid-19 has done to the economy, in which his industries, — hotels, leisure, urban real estate — have been particularly thrashed. Forbes estimates his assets to be worth $3.7 billion; Bloomberg valuates them at $3.2 billion. He certainly does not have to worry about going broke but if the economy fails to bounce back quickly, his valuations will surely be pummeled. Leaving the presidency would also limit Trump’s ability to negotiate favorable financial deals.
On the legal side, Trump, his children, and their organization are on the receiving end of an intense probe into their finances, accounting practices and tax payments.
According to appellate court filings, Trump is being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for possible tax fraud and forgery of business records. The DA’s office is pursuing eight years of Trump’s tax returns, as well as looking into the possibility of Trump overstating the value of his properties and other assets so that he could secure funds from investors.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is also probing into whether the Trump Organization and the Trump family inflated valuations in order to secure funding. James’ investigation is a civil matter, which could impose substantial financial penalties against Trump, however, he will not be sent to prison. Vance’s investigation, on the other hand, is a criminal investigation and if the Trump side is found to be guilty of felonies, prison time is on the cards.
Trump’s lawyers have retaliated heavily against the Vance probe, including reasoning with the U.S. Supreme Court that a sitting president is protected from state criminal prosecutions. In a landmark ruling this summer, the court rejected that argument. But this defense will no longer be valid soon enough as Trump’s run as the president comes to an end.
Once Trump is not protected by the murky laws of the White House that have seemingly made him untouchable, Trump can be sued and penalized just as any other American can. That could also help break new ground regarding the sexual assault allegations against him.
It remains to be seen how aggressive the Biden administration is towards Trump. They could revive the obstructions charges that have taken the back seat since former Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation. However, the political instability that would inevitably cause might convince Biden to not go through with it.
What is certain, however, is as Trump comes to terms with the fact that he lost the presidential election, he will continue thrashing around and throwing twitter tantrums that we are all accustomed to by now, and have come to expect from him, given that he is a man-child who, for the entirety of his life, has gotten away with almost everything.