Trump’s legal dramas overshadow his campaign as GOP field grows

Donald Trump has always said and done exactly what he wants when he wants in a turbulent business and political life that has defied all efforts to bring him under control.

But on Tuesday, the ex-president will be subject to someone else’s timetable and authority, amid increasing signs the legal system may represent a vein of accountability even Trump cannot flout.

Trump is due to appear by remote video at a hearing where a judge will explain the limits of what he can say about the business records and hush money case in Manhattan in which he became the first former president to be criminally indicted earlier this spring. His appearance, in a case in which he has pleaded not guilty, is largely a procedural affair. But it is one of the first of what may become multiple occasions when Trump is compelled to appear in court when he would rather be promoting his bid for a third Republican nomination – or doing just about anything else.

Tuesday’s hearing will amplify the extraordinary spectacle of a former president bidding for a non-consecutive second term while fighting off a flurry of legal investigations. It will highlight one of the unknowns of the quickly accelerating GOP primary – the extent to which the frontrunner’s tangle of legal problems will drain time, energy and focus from his campaign. Trump’s virtual date in court is also taking place as the GOP contest kicks into its highest gear yet, with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott jumping in on Monday and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expected to formally announce his White House bid within days.

And things could get much more complicated for Trump.

New CNN reporting is revealing the extent of special counsel Jack Smith’s penetration of Trump’s inner circle as he investigates the ex-president’s hoarding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Multiple sources familiar with notes taken by a Trump lawyer and turned over to investigators said Trump asked whether he could push back against Justice Department efforts to recover classified documents in his possession. The notes could help flesh out his actions and thinking as Smith investigates potential breaches of the Espionage Act and obstruction.