When Donald Trump first ran for the office of the President of the United States, he rallied his supporters with chants of “Lock her up!” against his main opponent, Hillary Clinton. Clinton, who had faced numerous investigations throughout her public career, was never charged with any crime. Now, former President Trump, who once again is campaigning to be President, has himself been locked up. On Tuesday, April 4th, the former President was arrested and arraigned after turning himself in at a lower Manhattan courthouse in New York after an indictment by a grand jury. It is a first in American history with no sitting or former President ever having been arrested.
At his arraignment, Trump was charged and pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts which stem from hush-money payments from alleged affairs with a porn star and a former Playboy model. Even though Trump denies the affairs, which took place after he married his current wife, few doubt that the affairs took place given his character. In normal cases, falsifying business records in the state of New York is a misdemeanor offense, but when records are falsified to cover up a crime the charges become a felony. This is where the District Attorney’s case becomes questionable to many legal analysts. The grand jury indictment did not specify which crime was trying to be covered up by the falsification of records. At a press conference by the District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, after the arraignment he stated, “The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election.” However, once again, the exact violation was left vague and if the matter involves federal election laws, questions arise over if the state of New York even has jurisdiction in those kinds of election laws.
The seeming thinness of the case against Trump caused some who have been very outspoken about Trump’s lack of fitness for the presidency, to come to his aid after the grand jury indictment was unsealed. John Bolton, his once National Security Advisor who left the Trump White House alarmed over Trump’s behavior and policies, expressed his concerns. “Speaking as someone who very strongly does not want Donald Trump to get the Republican presidential nomination, I’m extraordinarily distressed by this [grand jury indictment]. I think this [criminal case] is even weaker than I feared it would be.” Senator Mitt Romney, who has risked political isolation in his own party by speaking out against Donald Trump in the past released a statement about what he feels is an overreach by the prosecution: “I believe President Trump’s character and conduct make him unfit for office. Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda. No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.”
Former President Trump’s arrest and arraignment are just the latest in a series of legal battles he faces. Later this month, on April 25th, a civil lawsuit is scheduled to go ahead in the defamation lawsuit against Trump brought on by the former columnist E. Jean Carroll who accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990’s. Carroll claims she was defamed when Trump publicly accused her of lying. Another lawsuit stemming from Carroll is awaiting a Washington, D.C. court ruling on whether Trump is immune because disparaging statements he made about her were made while he was President of the United States.
In the state of Georgia, Trump is being investigated in his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The investigation focuses on a call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he pressured Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Trump’s loss of that state.
And on the Federal level, Trump is the focus of investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice on two fronts. The first, and the most serious of all his legal woes, is the investigation of his role in the January 6th, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capital Building. A special committee by the House of Representatives has urged the Justice Department to charge Trump with corruption of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and inciting or aiding an insurrection. Lastly there is the case of Trump retaining classified documents at his Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago. It is unclear where this investigation stands since Trump is not alone in the illegal retention of classified documents from his time in office. Both former Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden (from his time as Vice President) both have been found to have had classified documents at their estates. The latter two seem to have complied with requests to duly return all documents once they were found in their possession. But Trump’s case seems different. The Justice Department recently said that there is evidence that Trump and his team of lawyers may have moved and hidden some classified documents after their requested return, further increasing Trump’s legal jeopardy in the matter by way of obstruction.
In December of last of year, two Trump Organization businesses were found guilty by the state of New York of multiple charges of tax fraud and falsifying business records connected to a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensations for top executives. The two companies were ordered to pay $1.61 million in fines and penalties, the maximum allowed by New York law. While Trump or any member of his family were cleared of wrongdoing in the specific investigation, Trump’s longtime chief financial officer for decades, Allen Weisselberg, was convicted and sentenced to five months in prison as part of the scheme. The case was prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, run by Alvin Bragg.
Bragg’s successful prosecution should be cause for great concern by Trump, his lawyers, and his supporters. While Trump’s arrest may seem to be thinly based on the surface, Bragg has solidified himself as a competent District Attorney. Meanwhile, the Trump team has until August 8th to file any motions for his defense. Trump’s next in person court appearance for this case is currently schedule for December 4th. Undoubtedly Trump and his team will try to draw out the process as long as possible into the upcoming primaries for party nomination. The Trump campaign is already trying to spin his arrest by embracing it as a sign of government corruption. Even though no mug shot was taken of Trump upon his arrest, his campaign is already selling merchandise with his fake mugshot on it to rally supporters and campaign contributions.
Meanwhile, for Donald Trump, he has solidified his place in history as being twice impeached, and now arrested.