The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday unveiled charges against Donald Trump for paying money to suppress accounts of his alleged extramarital affair, becoming the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.
Below is an explanation of the charges he faces and his possible defenses:
WHAT IS TRUMP ACCUSED OF DOING?
Prosecutors led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to suppress negative news about him ahead of the US election. 2016.
During the campaign, former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an affair she says she had with Trump.
Trump denies the allegations and the cases, but admitted to reimbursing Cohen for his payment to Daniels. He called Bragg’s investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” and pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance on Tuesday.
Taken together, the charges carry a maximum of 136 years in prison under New York law, but any jail time following a guilty verdict would almost certainly be much less than that. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.
WHAT LAWS DO THEY VIOLATE?
It is against New York State law to make a false entry in a company’s records. While the falsification of business documents in itself is a misdemeanor, meaning it carries a penalty of less than a year, it is considered a felony punishable by up to four years. imprisonment if it is done to conceal or favor other crimes.
In this case, Bragg said those other crimes include alleged violations of election law.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges of causing unlawful campaign contribution and making excessive campaign contribution related to the scheme. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has not charged Trump, whom it referred to in his charging document against Cohen as “Individual-1,” with any crime.
WHAT MIGHT TRUMP’S DEFENSE BE?
Trump can argue that Cohen acted on his own by paying off Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He can also argue that the purpose of silencing Daniels and McDougal was to spare him and his family the embarrassment of public attention over alleged extramarital affairs, not to help his campaign.
While Cohen testified in 2018 that Trump ordered him to pay Daniels, Trump has repeatedly called Cohen a “liar” and may attempt to undermine Cohen’s credibility by pointing out that he admitted perjuring himself in front of Congress. .
In an interview with Reuters in December 2018, Trump said the payment to Daniels “was not a campaign contribution” and “there was no violation based on what we did.”
Joseph Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, has argued in television interviews that Trump was extorted by Daniels. Trump also said in a post on his Truth Social platform that the statute of limitations — typically five years in New York — had expired.
HOW DID BRAGG OVERCOME THESE ARGUMENTS?
While Cohen’s history of lies could provide fertile ground for Trump’s lawyers to cross-examine if he were to testify at an eventual trial, Cohen has already been convicted and served his sentence.
It could blunt any attempt by Trump to argue that Cohen was wrongfully implicating him in an attempt to secure a lenient sentence, a common argument criminal defendants make against cooperating witnesses.
Trump’s claim that Daniels was extorting him may not be relevant to the case, as the charge relates to his company’s false accounting of payments as legal fees.
The statute of limitations is unlikely to be an issue, as it does not count the time a defendant spends living outside of New York State. Trump lived in Washington, DC while he was president and has lived in Florida since leaving office in 2021.