Trump Indictment: What’s Going On & Can Trump Run In 2024?

After Trump’s arrest on 4th of April 2023 we take a look at why he’s been charged and what it means for his political future

Donald Trump walking out of the Manhattan Court surrounded by police officers
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Tuesday the 4th April 2023 will go down in US history as the first time a Former United States President was arrested.

Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records which puts the United States in uncharted political waters with Trump stating that he will be running in the 2024 Presidential Election and the arrest won’t stop him[1]Manhattan DA: District Attorney Bragg Announces 34-Count Felony Indictment of Former President Donald J. Trump.

So what has Trump been charged with, is it a “Witch Hunt” as he keeps calling it over on Truth Social and can he still run for President? Let’s take a look.

What Investigations Are There?

Trump is facing a number of investigations most notably over the finding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Largo home, alleged interference with the Georgia election in 2020 by asking an election official to “find 11,780 votes”[2]BBC News: Donald Trump: ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’, tax fraud in New York State and two investigations into the January 6th Insurrection[3]NPR: It’s not just Stormy Daniels. Here are ongoing criminal investigations Trump faces but it’s the Stormy Daniels “hush money” investigation which is the first to bring charges against the 45th President of the United States.

What Are The Charges Against Trump?

Trump faces 34 counts of “falsifying business records” relating to payments surrounding adult film star Stormy Daniels who he paid $130,000 to in return for her signing an NDA over an alleged affair with Trump, arranging for the National Enquirer to purchase a story from Playboy Model Karen McDougal whom he allegedly had an affair with (her story was never published) and also made a payment to a doorman who apparently had information about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock[4]Time: Trump’s Indictment Your Biggest Questions, Answered.

The statement of facts put forward by the District Attorney alleges that Trump “orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him”.

This effectively buried stories surrounding Daniels, McDougal and an illegitimate child all of which (if they came out) could have derailed his chance to become the President in 2016.

Ordinarily falsifying business records would be considered a misdemeanour under New York State Law but the District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, increased the charges to low-level felonies as, he argues, they were used to conceal another crime: advancing Trump’s presidential campaign in violation of campaign finance laws.

Some of the charges stem from payments made to Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to cover “legal expenses” but the D.A argues these were in fact payments relating to Trump’s campaign fund made to Cohen to cover payments made to Daniels, McDougal and others.

If Cohen’s name is familiar, that’s because he’s already served time after being found guilty of tax fraud, campaign finance irregularities and lying to Congress among other charges[5]LA Times: Michael Cohen completes prison term after Trump-related crimes while acting as Trump’s personal attorney.

Along with the reimbursement for payments to Daniels et al, Trump and the CFO of the Trump Organisation, Alan Weisselberg who was sentenced to 5 months in prison for tax fraud in January 2023[6]CNN Politics: Allen Weisselberg, former Trump Org. CFO, sentenced to 5 months in jail , the reimbursement amount had $50,000 added for expenses, was doubled to account for tax and had a $60,000 bonus tacked on top as well making the total Cohen was due to receive a whopping $420,000.

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This payment to Cohen was then spread out over 12 months where Trump was billed by Cohen for “legal services rendered” despite the fact there was no retainer in place and no money needed to change hands.

While the payments made to Cohen came from the Trump Organisation and Trump’s trust fund, because they were used to hide stories that could have been damaging to his political campaign this seemingly makes his actions a felony rather than the misdemeanour he would have just been fined for.

Cohen’s payment to Daniels was found by a court in 2018 to be an illegal campaign contribution so if there is proof that Trump paid Cohen to cover the money he paid out then this could mean serious trouble for the former President.

Donald Trump plead “Not Guilty” to all 34 charges[7]ABC News Australia: Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. These are the key takeaways from his case and is due to appear in court on December 4th 2023.

Is This A Political Witch Hunt?

Trump Post on Truth Social: Biden and his “people” knew all about the Radical Left, Soros backed D.A. (Bragg) going after “Trump.” They pushed the Racist D.A., which wasn’t difficult, even putting a top Democrat DOJ official (Matthew Collangelo) into Bragg’s Office (who even sign’s subpoenas!) to push this Witch Hunt forward. The Fake News refuses to report this, but now everyone knows. Election Interference!

Original Post

In the United Kingdom the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) looks at the evidence gathered by police and other relevant authorities and decides whether a case should make it to trail assuming there is a likelihood of a conviction based on the law. The CPS is independent of the police and government and is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed by the Monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In the United States they use a Grand Jury system to look at the evidence, question witnesses and decide whether the case should proceed to trial.

Depending on the jurisdiction, Grand Juries are made up of 16 to 23 people, who are selected at random from the voter registration rolls. A judge will preside over the Grand Jury investigation but the Judge themselves don’t take an active role in the process.

The Grand Jury is presented with evidence by the prosecutor, who is a lawyer representing the government. The prosecutor may call witnesses to testify and may introduce physical evidence. The Grand Jury may also ask questions of the witnesses.

It’s important to note that usually only the prosecution presents their case at the Grand Jury stage, there is no defence whose testimony will only be presented if the case moves to a jury trial. In New York State however the defence are allowed to present certain defence items but they are quite limited as to what they can tell the Grand Jury[8]CNN Politics: Grand jury indictments, explained.

After hearing the evidence, the Grand Jury must decide whether there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. If the Grand Jury finds that there is enough evidence, it will issue an indictment. An indictment is a formal accusation that someone has committed a crime.

If the Grand Jury does not find enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, it will issue a “no bill.” A no bill means that the grand jury does not believe that there is enough evidence to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

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Grand Jury proceedings are secret[9]NBC News: Trump indicted by Manhattan grand jury, the public are not allowed to attend the proceedings, and the grand jury’s deliberations are not recorded. This secrecy is designed to protect the grand jury from intimidation and to encourage witnesses to be candid in their testimony.

Grand Juries play an important role in the criminal justice system. They help to ensure that the government does not bring frivolous or unfounded charges against people. They also help to protect the rights of the accused by ensuring that they are not brought to trial without sufficient evidence.

For Trump to state that his indictment is a “Political Witch Hunt” and that the District Attorney is “weaponising law enforcement” would mean that every member of the Grand Jury would have had to be under the influence of the District Attorney some how.

While the District Attorney may have decided to charge Trump, they still have to present their case to a Grand Jury who then have to weigh up the evidence to see if it had merit – and they can only agree the case goes to trial if there is sufficient evidence which they obviously did.

Truth Social Post from Donald Trump that reads: Almost every legal and political analyst has said that the unfair and morally disgusting Indictment filed against me yesterday has NO MERIT, and is not even a case. There was no crime and, anyway, the Statute of Limitations has been violated by many years.

Original Post

Trump has also variously claimed on Truth Social that the statute of limitation has expired regarding payments made to Stormy Daniels in 2016. This is somewhat true: The statute of limitations on falsifying business records is five years so in theory Trump should have been charged by 2021. However: Trump moved his official residence from New York to Mar-a-Largo in Florida in 2019 which technically “pauses” the charges according to the D.A’s office[10]Politifact: Fact-checking Trump on the Stormy Daniels case: The statute of limitations and the FEC’s role so the Statute of Limitation can’t run out.

Even though the D.A’s office might be able to argue that the statute of limitations hasn’t expired there may be further trouble ahead for Bragg’s case – that Trump might not be eligible to have these charges against him in the first place. Apparently there are issues with the law that Bragg is trying to apply to Trump.

A case revolving this legslistation and how it applies to individuals was brought to the New York Court of appeals where it stalled and was never resolved[11]VOX: The dubious legal theory at the heart of the Trump indictment, explained. Because of this there is a question mark hanging over the law being used and whether the fact there is (technically) an active appeal over its use means that it could be thrown out in Trump’s case or at the very least moved up to the United States Supreme court which, with a majority Republican bench, could quite easily find in the former President’s favour.

Can Trump Still Run In 2024?

Yes.

Even if he is in prison[12]Independent: Can Donald Trump run for president from jail?!

The US Constitution has no restrictions regarding criminal activity that would bar someone becoming president.

In order to run for President you need to be born in the US (naturalised citizens are ineligible), you need to have been living in the States for at least 14 years and you need to be at least 35 to stand[13]The Atlantic: Lots of People Are Disqualified From Becoming President.

In fact you could commit murder and still be allowed to run for President from your prison cell as long as you were born on US soil, are over 35 and have lived in America since 2009.

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According to The Atlantic, there’s really only one thing stopping a person running for President (excluding the two-term limit from the 22nd Ammendment):

[T]he Constitution adds a category of people who cannot be elected as a result of their misdeeds. This category includes presidents (along with vice presidents and federal “civil officers”) who are impeached, convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, and disqualified for serious misconduct committed while they were in office.

And while Donald Trump was impeached… twice, he was not convicted by two-thirds of the senate and he’s yet to be found guilty of serious misconduct (see: January 6th Insurrection) while in office.

So yes, Donald Trump may have been arrested on 34 counts of falsifying business records that won’t stop him running in 2024, in fact it’s riled up his “MAGA” voter base and Trump will be able to turn this into a “Me against the System” campaign and raise funds from it.

The only thing that could possibly stop him running is if he is found guilty of serious misconduct surrounding either interfering in the Georgia Election results or the January 6th Insurrection and both these cases seem to be moving glacially slowly.

I guess it will be a case of “Make America Great Again Again Again” in 2024.

You can read the full Indictment (The People of the State of New York vs Donald J Trump) here (PDF)[14]The Telegraph: What are the charges against Donald Trump?

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