Hush money, election campaign, jury
That’s behind Trump’s fear of arrest
03/18/2023, 9:00 p.m
So far, Donald Trump has been able to avoid overly painful penalties despite numerous allegations against himself and his company. But that could soon be over. The Stormy Daniels case has not let go of the former US President. He faces a severe penalty.
There are increasing signs that former US President Donald Trump is about to be impeached. In an unprecedented post on his own online platform Truth Social, the Republican called on his supporters to protest over alleged arrests on Tuesday. “Leading Republican candidate and former President of the United States of America will be arrested Tuesday next week. Protest, take back our nation!”
The background to his fears is the long-standing legal tug of war over the alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels. The investigation, led by New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is directed against a $130,000 hush money payment that Trump’s then-private attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election. Trump and his lawyers conceded payment. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims to have had sex with Trump years before the election, which Trump denies.
The payment was apparently intended to prevent Clifford from going public, which could have harmed Trump during the election campaign. The cash flows may have violated campaign finance laws. The payment itself is legal, Columbia University law professor John Coffee told AFP. On the other hand, it is illegal to falsify a company’s commercial documents. The Trump Organization as a company declared the reimbursement of the hush money to Cohen as legal fees – this was a fake, he explained.
If the charges only relate to the payment to Daniels, that could be treated as a misdemeanor, Coffee said. However, if prosecutors can convince the jury that the forgery was done to conceal another crime – concealing a campaign donation – it could be considered a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.
Fingerprints and mug shots
A grand jury in New York is currently reviewing the evidence presented by prosecutors before deciding whether to press charges against the ex-president. Cohen, now a well-known Trump critic, testified before the grand jury last Monday. On Wednesday, Daniels met with the district attorney’s office. “Stormy has answered questions and has agreed to be available as a witness or for further inquiries if necessary,” her attorney Clark Brewster said afterwards.
Trump was invited to testify before the New York grand jury last week. There is no official time frame for the further procedure. According to US media reports, at least one more witness is expected to testify in the coming week. This indicates that no decision has yet been made on whether to indict Trump.
As the US news agency AP reported, Trump’s legal team and advisors have already prepared for a possible indictment and its consequences. Should it come to that, the 76-year-old would only be arrested if he refused to turn himself in to the authorities voluntarily. Trump’s lawyers have already stated that he would follow the normal procedure. That means he would likely agree to turn himself in at a New York City Police Department or directly at Attorney Bragg’s office.
As a former President, Trump would be brought to the prosecutor’s office by the Secret Service if necessary, reports CNN. There he would be fingerprinted and then mug shots would be taken of him. As is usual in cases where a defendant voluntarily turns himself in, Trump would then be taken directly to a judge for an indictment. There he would probably be released at his own risk. If Trump were to be accused of this, it would be an unprecedented event in US history. This has never been the case with a former president.
“Fairytale Disproved Completely”
The 76-year-old Republican announced a new presidential bid last November and wants to retake the White House in the 2024 elections. In his statement on “Truth Social”, written in capital letters, Trump now referred to “illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political prosecutor’s office in Manhattan”. The investigations against him were based on “an old fairy tale that has been completely refuted (by numerous other prosecutors)”. A few hours later, Trump followed up again and appealed to his supporters: “Protest, protest, protest.”
His attorney, Susan Necheles, said Trump’s statements were based on media reports and not new steps by prosecutors. “Because this is a political prosecution, the prosecutor’s office has resorted to leaking everything to the press instead of communicating with President Trump’s attorneys as would be the case in a normal case,” Necheles said.
Many months or, in extreme cases, years could pass before a possible conviction in the case of the hush money payment. And even a guilty verdict wouldn’t legally stop Trump from running for the 2024 election. However, investigations are also underway against Trump in a number of other cases. For example, a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department is investigating Trump’s role in the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021 and the taking of secret government documents from his tenure. In the state of Georgia, the public prosecutor’s office is investigating Trump for possible election manipulation. In one case, Trump has already been prosecuted – at least indirectly. His real estate group was fined in New York for tax fraud, among other things. The ex-president was not personally accused.