What next for Donald Trump?”

The first US ex-president to face criminal charges

The recent events involving the arrest and criminal charges against former US President Donald Trump have garnered significant public interest. For the first time in the USA’s 250 years of history, a President has been charged with criminal offenses and subsequently arrested. Donald Trump is facing a total of 34 charges, each carrying a maximum prison sentence of four years, which could potentially result in a total of 136 years of imprisonment if he is convicted. Does this mean that Donald Trump will spend the rest of his life in jail? What are the accusations against him? It’s an interesting story.

The charges against Donald Trump stem from allegations of an extramarital affair with adult actress Stormy Daniels, which he denies ever happened. The alleged affair took place in 2006 while Donald Trump was married to Melania Trump and hosting a TV show. Daniels attempted to reveal their affair to the public during the 2016 US Presidential Elections, but her story was purchased by the National Enquirer, a newspaper owned by American Media, Inc. (AMI), whose CEO, David Pecker, was known to be close to Donald Trump.

AMI is accused of employing a tactic known as “Catch and Kill,” which involves purchasing the exclusive rights to negative stories about Trump but never publishing them, effectively silencing potential whistleblowers. For instance, the story of Dino Sajudin, a former doorman at Trump Tower who claimed to have seen Donald Trump with another woman and fathering a love child with her, was bought by AMI for $30,000, but never published. A brilliant tactic if you think about it.

Normally, if you want someone to remain quiet, you can bribe them into silence. But doing so is illegal. Here, to keep them quiet, this newspaper would approach them and offer to buy the exclusive rights to the sensational stories under the guise of publishing them, but they never published the stories. And that person cannot tell his story to anyone else because he gave exclusive rights to the story to that media organization in the signed agreement.

Interestingly, this isn’t merely an accusation, rather AMI CEO, David Pecker admitted that his media organization did employ the “Catch and Kill” tactic. Another such incident took place between 2006-2007, when Donald Trump had another affair with another actress, Karen McDougal. This story was bought by the same newspaper by paying $150,000 to the actress and as always, they didn’t publish it.

Coming back to the Daniels scandal, about one month before the 2016 elections, was around the same time as Donald Trump’s famous “Grab them” quote was leaked. It won’t be wrong to say that Donald Trump’s reputation was at stake. He was running to be the President of the USA and had the news of such affairs been made public, it would have had a big impact on the elections. Once again, this newspaper promised to pay $130,000 to Daniels, to buy the exclusive rights to this story of their affair. Even as the elections were approaching, Daniels hadn’t received this payment. The responsibility to transfer the money fell on the shoulders of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. He kept delaying this payment. But when Daniels was about to cancel the deal because of non-payment, frightened he used a shell company to send this money.

Donald Trump claims that this affair never happened. So the question arises, why did they pay her? There is proof that money was transferred from Cohen to Daniels. And when he was asked in court, Cohen didn’t deny it. Rather, he acknowledged that he had made the payment at Trump’s direction. Due to this, hn was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. These three years have just ended.

Secretly paying someone to silence them is known as Hush Payment. And to add to your information, making hush payments isn’t a crime in America. Thus, Michael Cohen wasn’t imprisoned for making the hush payment, he was sent to jail due to crimes such as willful tax evasions, giving false statements to banks, unlawful campaign contributions, and excessive campaign contributions.

Is this really a witch-hunt wrongfully targeting Trump or is it justified due to his crimes? The crimes aren’t so significant that Trump need be sent to prison for years, but his unethical and immoral acts need to be presented to the public. So that the people know the kind of person they are voting for.

Similarly, in Trump’s case, a married person having an affair can be morally or ethically wrong, but in terms of law, it isn’t a crime in most American states. Neither is it a crime to make a hush payment nor is it a crime to try to clean up one’s image. So what are the charges against Donald Trump then? Interestingly, he has been charged with wrongfully recording transactions in the bank accounts, falsifying his business records. This happened when he tried to pay his lawyer for the legal services. Trump is facing 34 charges of falsifying business records. Of these, it is alleged that he falsified the invoices 11 times, wrote 11 false cheques and cheque stubs and made 12 false general ledger entries. Broadly speaking, when his lawyers were making hush payments to Daniels to keep her silent, and when Donald Trump paid his lawyer regarding this, there was some misappropriation of money. Even though his lawyer Cohen acknowledged in court about doing these things, Donald Trump keeps claiming that his lawyer is lying.

Furthermore, Trump was accused because when he was paying his lawyer to pay the hush money to Daniels, this payment was disguised as a common payment i.e. a normal legal day-to-day expense which it wasn’t. That is why it is a case of falsifying business records. There is another twist in the story.

According to New York’s state law, falsifying business records will be considered a crime only when it is done intentionally to cover up another crime. It means that merely falsifying business records isn’t a crime because this can be a genuine mistake. But it becomes a crime when one tries to cover up a primary crime. What is the primary crime in Trump’s case? We will get to know this once the trial and court hearing starts, but according to experts, primary crime would be the crime for which Trump’s lawyer Cohen was convicted. In addition to this, tax fraud is emerging as another primary crime. In a leaked document, it was revealed that Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels to remain quiet in 2016 and Trump paid Cohen $420,000 for the same thing in 2017. This means that Donald Trump paid more than the actual amount and it is being seen as an instance of tax fraud.

Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg is the lawyer leading this prosecution. According to him, one of the primary crimes would be that information was “wrongly presented” to the voters before the elections. To increase his chances of winning the elections, Donald Trump concocted this “Catch and Kill” scheme so that all negative news about him could be suppressed.

What will happen next in this case? There are many hurdles in trying to prove Donald Trump’s guilt. First, if this case reaches the Supreme Court, there is a high chance that Trump would leave unscathed because of the Republican-appointed Supermajority in the Supreme Court. A major disadvantage of the American system is that in America, the Supreme Court judges are selected by the President. So when Donald Trump was President, he selected multiple Supreme Court judges and those judges are still on the Supreme Court’s bench. Will those judges pass a sentence against Trump? It looks uncertain.

The second problem with proving Trump guilty will be that the crime of falsifying business records comes with a time limit of five years. If someone committed this crime five years ago, they cannot be convicted for that now. To mention, the final payment made by Trump to Cohen was in December 2017. 5 years have already passed. Can Trump be convicted for this crime any longer? There is a counter for this as well. According to New York’s law, this time limit can be suspended if the accused person was living outside New York. When Trump became the President, he lived in the White House for four years, that is obviously not in New York. Moreover, he was living in Florida ever since his term as the President ended. So, technically thisfive years’ limitation will not be triggered here.

In response, Donald Trump claims that the entire saga is a witch-hunt, that he is being targeted. He is accusing the judge of being a “Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris and now receives money from the Biden-Harris campaign.” Trump made these statements despite being warned by Judge Merchan to stop making such threatening and inflammatory statements. Recently, in January 2023, a $1 million fine was imposed on Trump for Bogus suit, that is, he was continuously misusing the courts in furtherance of his political narrative.

Is this really a witch-hunt wrongfully targeting Trump or is it justified due to his crimes? I feel the crimes aren’t so significant that Trump need be sent to prison for years, but his unethical and immoral acts need to be presented to the public. So that the people know the kind of person they are voting for.

Eman Tarar
Eman Tarar
The writer is a freelance columnist


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