The United States’ political climate has entered uncharted waters as Donald Trump becomes the first former President to face criminal charges. Trump has been convicted of thirty-four counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. All of the charges relate to a $130,000 hush-money payment made by one of Trump’s lawyers and Trump’s subsequent actions. As the case continues to unroll, understanding the logistics of the proceedings will be important.
In recent days, the legal terms “indictment” and “arraignment” have been dominating headlines. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, when a person is indicted, they are “…given formal notice that it is believed that they committed a crime.” The indictment informs the person of the charges against them. After someone is indicted, an arraignment occurs and the defendant is present at a formal reading of their criminal charges. Trump’s arraignment occurred on Tuesday, April 4 in New York City. He was read his charges and pleaded not guilty.
Now you may be asking yourself: What are the charges that Trump is facing? Trump was formally charged with thirty-four counts of falsifying documents that covered up a hush-money payment made by lawyer Michael Cohen. The hush-money payment itself was not a crime, but Trump was accused of falsifying documents in an attempt to cover up the payment – it was this falsification of documents that constituted the crime. During the lead-up to the 2016 election, Cohen gave hush-money to adult film star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from speaking out about an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump in 2007. After becoming President, Trump allegedly began to make payments to Cohen that were labeled as “legal fees” but were actually reimbursements for the hush-money. Additionally, some argue that the hush-money and its subsequent cover-up should be labeled criminal because money was spent to aid a presidential campaign (by covering up an affair) but was not disclosed. If this were true, the actions would violate the federal campaign finance law. However, there has been debate about whether this claim holds legal value, so it may or may not play a role in the case.
Following his arraignment, Trump returned to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and spoke out about the case. He claimed that there was “no case” against him and that he had done nothing wrong. Trump continued asserting that there were external political forces at play. Even with these claims, systems are in place to ensure that judicial proceedings and lawyers are not politically motivated or affected. Nonetheless, the circumstances certainly make for an unprecedented trial.
With so much information circulating about the case, many Americans are wondering what will be next. One thing is for certain – this case will not be a speedy process. The next court date for Trump is a pre-trial hearing set for Dec. 4, 2023. Between now and then, lawyers can file motions relating to the case. People expect that Trump’s lawyers will argue that Trump will not receive a fair trial in New York due to bias, and argue for the trial to be moved. If the case goes to trial, which is not certain yet, it will be occurring as Trump runs for President in 2024. In the end, Trump will be able to run for President even with a pending criminal charge, and as more developments occur in the case, it will be interesting to see how they affect Trump’s election campaign.
45th President Donald Trump at his arraignment on April 4 in New York City
(Photo Credit: ABC News Chicago)