News (USA)

Here’s what Trump’s indictment says & why the entire case against him could crumble

Donald Trump has the support of Evangelical Christians.
Donald TrumpPhoto: Shutterstock

Shortly after former President Donald Trump pleaded “not guilty” to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in New York state on Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan finally unsealed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment and statement of facts detailing the criminal charges against Trump.

The documents accuse Trump and the Trump Organization of hiding its hush money payments, made in 2016 and 2017, to hide potentially unflattering stories about Trump during the 2016 election. Trump and his organization allegedly misrepresented these payments to hide their breaking of federal campaign finance laws. But it’s unclear if New York state prosecutors can charge Trump with a felony for trying to hide a federal crime — in fact, the entire case could crumble depending on how courts interpret the statute.

While falsifying business records is typically a misdemeanor offense in New York state law, Bragg alleges that Trump hid these payments in order to cover up campaign finance violations which are a federal crime. Because the falsification occurred to hide another crime, Bragg upgraded the state charges from misdemeanors to felonies.

Bragg’s unsealed court documents say that Trump and his organization paid $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged extramarital affair. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen established a shell company — Resolution Consultants, LLC — to make Daniels’s payment seem unconnected to Trump.

Trump allegedly organized two other hush money payments through American Media, Inc. (“AMI”), the company that owns The National Enquirer and other publications. AMI paid $125,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her from alleging her own extramarital affair with Trump.

AMI also paid $30,000 to stop an unnamed Trump Tower doorman from claiming he had proof about a child Trump had out of wedlock. AMI “later concluded that the [doorman’s] story was not true” but it still paid him to stay silent until after the election, court documents alleged. AMI also allegedly misrepresented its payment to McDougal on its company ledgers.

AMI paid McDougal and the doorman money to “not publicize damaging allegations” against Trump in order to “influence” the 2016 election, the unsealed court documents state — a media legal arrangement sometimes referred to as “capture and kill.”

After winning the 2016 election, Trump allegedly met AMI CEO David Pecker inside Trump Tower in Manhattan to invite him to the inauguration and to a White House dinner as thanks for his handling of McDougal’s and the doorman’s stories.

To repay Cohen for handling Daniels’s payment, Trump and the Trump Organization’s then-CFO Allen Weisselberg allegedly asked Cohen to submit a $35,000 invoice each month throughout 2017 as part of a “retainer agreement” and for “legal services rendered.”

“In fact, there was no such retainer agreement and [Cohen] was not being paid for services rendered in any month of 2017,” the court documents state. Rather, Cohen’s invoices were just reimbursements for the $130,000 he paid to Daniels and an additional $290,000 to reward Cohen for his work, court documents allege.

Trump allegedly signed off on each check from the Trump Organization to Cohen. Each check counts as a falsified business record, Bragg writes. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance by mischaracterizing the Trump Organization’s payments. Cohen’s admission, Bragg says, means that Trump essentially falsified business records to help his lawyer violate federal campaign finance law.

While New York law allows prosecutors to seek felony charges for falsifying business records when a defendant does so to cover up “another crime,” it’s unclear whether this means a state crime or a federal one, Vox reported. Furthermore, state law also only allows prosecutors to pursue such felonies up to five years after the alleged falsification occurred. Trump’s last check to Cohen was issued in December 2017 — over five years and four months ago.

These technical legal questions could ultimately be decided by the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. Considering that Trump’s next New York court hearing is scheduled for December 4, the court case could drag well into election season or longer, especially since Trump is infamous for delaying court proceedings as long as possible.

Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’ looks gloriously gay

Previous article

Let’s stop treating Trump’s indictment as if he were a normal ex-president

Next article