For the first time in American history, a former president is facing criminal charges. Donald Trump is facing over 30 counts of business fraud, including a hush money payment made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels in an indictment from a Manhattan grand jury. Trump is expected to appear in court on Tuesday according to several other reports.
Reports say that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen negotiated a deal with porn star Stormy Daniels, paying her $130,000 in exchange for keeping quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. It is likely he will be charged with a violation of New York penal code 175.10, falsifying business records in the first degree, says Kim Wehle, a former U.S. attorney.
Cohen transferred the money to Daniels two weeks before the 2016 Presidential Election, to which he then reimbursed her again after Trump won. The Trump Organization stated that the reimbursement payments were for legal fees, but this has since been found to be false.
Falsifying business records is a Class E felony which can result in a prison sentence of up to four years. The exact details of the charges have not been released to the public yet but are to be announced in the coming days. Trump has vowed that he will continue his presidential campaign for 2024, despite the charges.
The District Attorney’s Office stated on Thursday “This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal.”
The former president argues that he is the victim, stating “I can’t get a fair trial in New York” and that the indictment is “political persecution”.
Democrats said if Trump has broken the law, he should face charges like any other American would. “There should be no outside political influence, intimidation or interference in the case” said Democratic Senate majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republicans have criticised the indictment. Mike Pence, former Vice President under Trump, said the indictment sends a “terrible message” about the US justice system to the world. Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator called it a “shocking and dangerous day for the rule of law in America”.
Rom DeSantis, a Florida Gov. Republican tweeted today “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American. The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is…”
Trump is still permitted to run for president in the 2024 election as the charges do not disqualify him, according to legal experts. “There is no constitutional bar on a felon running for office,” says Richard Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA Law School.
The legalities remain unclear if Trump were to win presidency while facing impending charges or a conviction. “They’ve never had to discuss, to my knowledge, what happens if someone becomes president after being prosecuted or while in jail,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia Law School.
Edited by: Yasmin Hailes
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