How running for president affects Trump's various legal challenges

WellFormer President Donald Trump announced his third bid for the White House on Tuesday night, confirming that he is running for the 2024 Republican Party nomination despite the web of criminal and civil investigations that have engulfed him.

In addition to speculation about Trump’s chances in the primaries, which are more than a year away, his candidacy raises questions about the numerous investigations in which Trump remains embroiled.

Here’s what we know about how Trump’s campaign will affect those investigations.

What are the main investigations facing Trump?

Despite a decades-long career marked by lawsuits over contract disputes, labor issues and tax cases, Trump has never faced the legal quagmire before him today. The Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a criminal investigation whether Trump removed or hid potentially classified material when he left office. And both the Justice Department and a special House committee are investigating Trump’s role in the deadly attacks on the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

In Georgia, the Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis has its own criminal investigation into Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the election results.

In New York, the Attorney General of New York Letitia James has filed a $250 million civil suit against Trump, his three grown children, the Trump Organization and senior management at the company, alleging they participated in attempts to falsely inflate Trump’s assets by billions of dollars. James forwarded his findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service for Criminal Investigations, and is cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is in the midst of its own criminal investigation into Trump’s business dealings.

Trump’s legal counsel did not respond to TIME’s request for comment for this story. He has denied any wrongdoing and denounced all investigations against him as politically motivated.

Read more: The major ongoing investigations of Donald Trump

Will Trump’s candidacy affect how prosecutors conduct investigations against him?

Legal experts tell TIME that the Trump campaign’s announcement does not change the legal procedures or legal requirements of any of the investigations he faces. “Otherwise, anyone can always just announce they’re running.” [President] to get away with misconduct,” said Barbara McQuaid, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Justice Department typically does not encourage investigative activities within 60 days of an election — and prosecutors are well outside that window. Such a policy likely won’t go into effect until shortly before January 2024, when the first presidential election will be held, McQuaid explains.

In practical terms, on the other hand, Trump’s statement could prompt investigators to proceed more cautiously, said Stephen Binhack, a former federal prosecutor who was an assistant counsel during Ken Starr’s investigation of former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s years. As he considers whether to bring charges against Trump, Attorney General Merrick Garland is now even more likely to consider “whether and how politics will [affect] the public’s perception of the fairness of the investigation and any charges, the likelihood that a jury will convict, and how a judge would sentence Mr. Trump if there was a conviction,” Binhak says.

But Jennifer Rogers, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Columbia University Law School, says she believes the Justice Department has already approached its investigations of the former president with similar considerations. “He’s already being treated with kid gloves,” she says. “They’re being very cautious in their investigation.” Rogers pointed out that while Trump had not officially announced his candidacy until Tuesday night, the former president had been unofficially considered a 2024 contender after his loss to Joe Biden two years ago. For these reasons, she says, the announcement is unlikely to change the approach of the various probes.

Read more: How Trump survived decades of legal trouble: Deny, deflect, delay and put nothing in writing

Does Trump’s candidacy affect how he covers his legal bills?

The Republican National Committee covered some of Trump’s legal bills while he was in office and has continued to cover some of them in his post-presidency. Rona McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman, said the committee would have to stop paying those bills if Trump makes the 2024 bid.

“We cannot pay legal bills for any candidate that is announced,” McDaniel said on CNN this month, describing such payments as “in-kind contributions” to a candidate.

McDaniel said in the same interview that the RNC initially paid bills to defend Trump against an investigation led by James, the New York attorney general, because the committee considered it a “politically motivated investigation.”

Will a special prosecutor be appointed for the federal investigations against Trump?

Washington Publish reported on Tuesday, Justice Department officials privately discussed appointing a special counsel to take over investigations involving Trump once he becomes an official presidential candidate. But legal experts tell TIME that would be an unwise decision. Special advisers are appointed to ensure the appearance of independence. But no matter who is chosen for the role, Trump will argue the appointee is working as a partisan, as he did with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, McQuaid says.

The investigation into the Capitol riots has now been going on for nearly two years, McQuaid added, meaning that “DOJ does not see [Trump’s] potential nomination as a candidate against Biden as an obstacle.” And at this point, adding a special counsel could significantly delay the timelines of the probes. McQuade estimates that the Justice Department is eyeing an early-to-mid 2023 deadline for its investigations, possibly due to concerns that a potential Trump presidency would end an ongoing investigation, dismiss an indictment or even issue a pardon.

Andrew Weissman, former head of the Justice Department’s fraud division who served as the lead prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s Office of Special Counsel, says the Justice Department likely discussed appointing a special counsel when it was first launched his investigations in Trump. Those discussions may be revisited with Trump’s campaign announcement, he added. The standard for appointing a special counsel can be quite variable, so it will come down to Garland’s discretion.

Rogers says he hopes Garland eventually declines. “They just have to keep doing what they’re doing,” she says, “which is all they have to do, frankly, to make sure it’s all fair and proper.”

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Write to Madeline Carlisle c [email protected].

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