Former president Donald Trump and his team entered in a not guilty plea after being indicted for 34 counts of falsifying business records. According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Trump allegedly made multiple false business records following a rumored relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Daniels and Trump met in 2006 at a golf tournament. According to Daniels, she
and Trump had an affair a
few years later in 2011, though this is denied by Trump and his team. After the alleged affair, Daniels attempted to
go to the media, but Trump’s legal counsel, Michael Cohen, threatened legal action against her and the reporters. Her interviews weren’t released until 2018.
Following his nomination in 2016 for president, Daniels claims she was offered hush money in the amount of $130,000 by Trump’s team. The money came out of Cohen’s pocket, which was repaid by Trump. There is no law against hush money or making a payment like it, at least not in the U.S. However, these payments were allegedly marked as business expenses, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.
Trump gets sworn in as president of the U.S., and a few months later, Cohen gets in hot water with the FBI over payments made to two women, Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump denied any knowledge of these payments. Cohen was given three years in jail after pleading guilty to eight charges of tax fraud, excessive campaign contributions, illegal corporate contributions, and making false statements to a financial institution.
The Manhattan DA’s office subpoenaed Trump’s financial records in relation to Daniels and McDougal, and later asked for tax returns dating back to 2011. These tax returns were not just from Trump’s personal finances, but the returns from his company as well.
Trump’s team attempted to block the subpoenas, but they were held up by the supreme court. The Manhattan DA’s office received his tax records in February of 2021, shortly after Trump left office.
A few months later, Trump’s organization was indicted on criminal charges.
A grand jury was put together to investigate the payments made to Daniels and McDougal. Trump was asked to present a case to the grand jury, though he and his team declined. The grand jury then indicted Trump March 2023.
While allegations of fraudulent conduct at Trump’s organization have been around since his presidential nomination in 2016, some feel that this indictment happened quickly.
Mark Owens, assistant professor of political science at UT Tyler, explained in an interview with KLTV, that while it may feel like a surprise, these past few steps by the Manhattan DA were carefully planned and expected.
“Typically, in any legal process these things are actually telegraphed, and people get notice of what is going to happen,” Owens said. Trump surrendered himself to the DA’s office April 4, and entered in a not guilty plea the next day during his arraignment.
The defense has been given until August to file motions with the court to dismiss any charges, cases or to make requests like a change of venue, for example. After that, the trail date will be set.
This case is not expected to go to trial until next year.
Cohen is mentioned in two of the counts against Trump, and he is expected to be a witness for the prosecution during the trail.
Despite being the first U.S. former president to be officially charged with a crime, that does not necessarily mean he cannot run for president in 2024. There is no law barring former or current, alleged or convicted individuals from becoming president of the U.S.
“History tends to show us that it might not matter; bigger things are gonna matter. People are gonna are think about the economy. People will continue to think about other leadership,” Owens said. “He’s a name that people know.”
The following resources were helpful in researching this article: The Washington Post, The Washington Examiner, USA Today, CBS.