Annisa Essack | email@example.com
1 April 2023 | 16:00 CAT
3 min read
On Thursday, a grand jury in Manhattan, New York, indicted former United States President Donald Trump in a case on hush money payments to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 election campaign. Trump is the first American President to be charged with a crime.
The indictment was confirmed by Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, and other sources, citing four people with knowledge of the matter. Trump’s attorney at that time, Michael Cohen, orchestrated the payment to buy Daniels’ silence over an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
Now an outspoken Trump foe, Cohen, who testified before the grand jury in the Manhattan case – made the $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016. When Trump was President, he reimbursed Cohen monthly $35,000 checks from his account. Prosecutors effectively maintain that Trump’s handling of the reimbursement violated state law.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges related to the hush money payment. Court documents in Cohen’s federal case said the Trump Organisation falsely described payments as legal expenses, citing a legal retainer that did not exist.
For every allegation against him, whether accusations of criminal activity or claims for civil damages, Trump has denied wrongdoing concerning, repeatedly decrying investigations as political witch hunts. He denies an affair with Daniels but has admitted paying Cohen, claiming to be a victim of extortion.
An attorney for Trump, Susan Necheles, contended that he would have made payments to Daniels regardless of his presidential campaign during a meeting with Manhattan prosecutors to argue he should not be indicted.
Trump is expected to appear in court for his arraignment on Tuesday, where he will enter a plea, and various dates for case proceedings will be set. His attorneys are guaranteed to fight the charges in the pre-trial stages, submitting motions to exclude evidence and testimony they believe will harm his defence, as is typical in criminal cases. This will result in re-setting deadlines and scheduling events, making a definitive trial date elusive until shortly before proceedings kick off. It would also mean that years would elapse between Trump’s indictment and any possible trial.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is investigating Trump’s attempted election subversion, his incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress, and his criminal investigation of Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Federal prosecutors are examining whether Trump willfully retained national security information and obstructed justice.
In Georgia, Trump is also under investigation for alleged attempted election interference, for which the Fulton County prosecutor, Fani Willis, requested a grand jury. He is also facing a defamation trial arising from an allegation of rape made by the writer E Jean Carroll, an allegation Trump denies.
A big question is how these investigations would affect Trump’s 2024 election bid. According to New York City Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, diehard Trump supporters won’t particularly care and see this as an attack on their values because Trump represents them. He added that the indictment would play into Trump’s nationalist dog-whistling that white Americans are victimised.
But Sheinkopf said most Republicans would not back a candidate charged with a crime.