Keeping up With Trump: Time for his Fourth Indictment

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Picture of newspapers covering the indictment of Trump (Image Credit: Roll Call)

As of August 14, 2023, Former President Donald Trump faces his fourth indictment, with a historic 41 charges. While his indictments are a key focus of the 2024 presidential race, in which Trump is vying for the Republican nominee, many Americans are not aware of the complex circumstances surrounding this unique situation. This breakdown explains the causes for each indictment and states in detail each consequence the former POTUS faces.

What exactly is an indictment? An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal activity– and it means that a grand jury, made up of 15–21 citizens, has reviewed the evidence and agreed to bring on a criminal case. However, it is important to differentiate between a grand jury and a trial jury. A grand jury does not decide guilt, but rather decides if the evidence provided is enough to pursue a criminal proceeding.

Trump’s first indictment was on April 4th, 2023 in New York. This indictment contained 34 counts of falsifying business records, to which his lawyers pled not guilty. This indictment was for multiple hush money payments, but how was it brought on, and what is its significance? There are three cases of hush money paid from the former President: a Trump Tower doorman, former Playboy Model Karen McDougal, and porn actress Stormy Daniels.

When doorman Dino Sajudin threatened to come forward with knowledge of Trump’s illegitimate child in 2015, he was paid $30,000 by Trump’s team to ensure it did not come out, especially given the fact that the 2016 election was approaching. His payment was sent by the National Enquirer’s parent company, in which he signed a contract to not disclose the rumor with a penalty of $1 million.

Similarly, Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 by the same company in August 2016 for her silence about Trump’s 10-month affair with her two decades ago. The parent company publicly stated that these payments were to ensure Trump’s presidential run in 2016 went smoothly.

Trump then told his lawyer Michael Cohen to reimburse the company in cash for their payments.

The last person in this indictment is Stormy Daniels, arguably the most publicized in the media for her relations with the former president. She was paid $130,000 twelve days before the election. Her silence was for an affair in 2006, and Trump denied all knowledge of her payment. However, Cohen was reimbursed from Trump’s own personal account as well as his Trump Organization trust. Despite Trump pleading not guilty, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws due to the payments.

This indictment can have significant ramifications when it comes to Trump’s 2024 presidential run. Not only will he need to deal with criminal charges while on the campaign trail, but Trump will also face attacks on his credibility even if declared not guilty. It is highly improbable that he will go to jail over these first set of charges.

Trump’s second indictment took place in Florida in June 2023. It contains 40 charges over the mishandling of classified documents stored in his Mar-a-Lago Club. This is where the charges start to escalate. He is accused of not notifying the Secret Service of confidential documents stored in his Florida resort, which is a federal crime. Not only is Donald Trump involved in this lawsuit, but two co-conspirators are named: Waltine Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira.

Nauta is a Navy veteran and executive assistant to Trump, often working closely with him. He is accused of transporting boxes of documents to conceal them from the FBI, grand jury, and Trump’s own attorney. These boxes contained information on many classified matters, most notably Intelligence data and Defense plans. De Oliveira is the property manager of the resort. He is accused of moving boxes as well as taking action to cover up their actions, including manipulating security footage.

Trump and his attorneys have also pled not guilty to this indictment, citing that this is a ‘witch hunt.’ If proven guilty, Trump and his co-conspirators face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Trump’s third indictment took place in Washington DC on August 1st, 2023. It contains four counts for attempts to undermine the election and defraud the United States. In the lawsuit, he is accused of spreading lies to compromise the results of the 2020 election which he lost. Despite the acknowledgment that the former president has a right to free speech, the lawsuit cites that his behavior was harmful due to the intentional targeting of the federal government. It also places responsibility on Trump for instigating the January 6th attack on the US Capitol.

There are six co-conspirators involved in this trial, including Trump’s attorneys, a political consultant, and a Justice Department official. Specifics of this indictment include the slandering of voting machine companies, which reduced faith in the voting system from Americans. The fraud allegations are a key focus of these charges, and Trump is accused of launching a scheme of deceit to impair federal government function under newly elected Biden.

Once again, Trump has pled not guilty. However, if found guilty, he faces a maximum of 20 years.

The most recent indictment, on August 14th in Georgia, includes charges of a racketeering conspiracy to overturn Biden’s 2020 win. There are 19 defendants, or people facing charges, in this case, including Trump. This lawsuit, while similar to his D.C indictment, aims to prove that Trump and his allies aimed to illegally change the results of the 2020 election, rather than undermine it. District Attorney Fani Willis used Georgia’s RICO law to file this lawsuit.

An abbreviation for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the RICO law allows prosecutors, such as Willis, to include activities that did not take place in their jurisdiction to connect to their own case. Due to this Act, the DA is able to include many more defendants in Trump’s inner circle. A trial is expected next month and if guilty, Trump faces a maximum of 20 years for violating the RICO Act.

Trump’s indictments and their developments play an important role in the upcoming 2024 election. This is the first time in American history that a former president has been charged with a crime, and Americans are currently living through precedent. In a poll conducted on July 6th, the majority of voters believe that Trump should face trial before the election. However, partisanship in this issue still remains significantly strong, and approximately two-thirds of Americans who align with the GOP believe that Trump is the best leader for the United States. Contrasting this, the majority of Democrats believe he should drop out entirely. The numerous counts against Trump remain a determining factor of election outcomes, and as Biden’s approval rating falls to 36%, it is difficult to tell which way it will go.

Written by Aanya Shah

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