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Explaining Four Trump Indictments

by Thomas Burke
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Former President Donald Trump’s legal woes keep mounting.

On Monday, prosecutors in the southern U.S. state of Georgia unveiled a new indictment, charging Trump and 18 others in connection with efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.

This is the fourth indictment against Trump in less than five months — two at the state level and two at the federal level. The former president is now facing 91 criminal charges, ranging from falsifying business records in New York to seeking to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

Many of the charges carry hefty prison sentences of 10 to 20 years if convicted. Trump, who is 77, could spend the rest of his life in prison if found guilty of one or more of the charges and sentenced.

“At his age, any conviction of any count could be a terminal sentence,” Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, said in a recent interview with VOA.

But a conviction is not a foregone conclusion. And even if he is, he could receive a presidential pardon or have his sentence commuted to some lesser form of punishment.

He has pleaded not guilty in the three earlier cases in New York, Florida, and Washington, D.C., and has until August 25 to surrender to authorities in Georgia.

Trump’s legal troubles have not dented his dominance as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. But with at least two criminal trials looming next year, the criminal cases will likely cast a long shadow over the presidential race, as well as the news headlines.

Here is a look at the four indictments against Trump.

Hush money payment

Announced in March, this case made Trump the first and only former American president to be charged with crimes.

On March 30, a Manhattan grand jury indicted him on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with paying off an adult film star in 2016.

In an unprecedented scene, Trump surrendered to authorities five days later and was arraigned in a Manhattan courthouse.

His lawyers sought to move the case from New York state court to federal court, arguing that his alleged conduct in the case was related to his official duties as president. But in July, a federal judge rejected the argument, setting the stage for a trial in a state court. It is scheduled for March 25, 2024.

Classified documents

Brought by special counsel Jack Smith, this case marked the first federal indictment of an American president, sitting or former.

The case grew out of Smith’s monthslong investigation of Trump’s handling of government secrets after he left the White House in January 2021.

FILE - This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and partially redacted by the source, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
FILE – This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and partially redacted by the source, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

On June 8, a grand jury in Miami indicted Trump on 37 felony counts, including 31 counts of illegally retaining national defense information, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, was also charged. Trump was arraigned on June 13.

In late July, prosecutors unveiled three additional charges and added another co-defendant to the case — Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira.

Among the new charges, Trump and his two aides are accused of asking another employee to “delete security camera footage at the Mar-a-Lago Club to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the new charges.

The trial in the case is set to begin May 20, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

The trial date, set by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, was a compromise between a request by prosecutors to schedule the trial for December and Trump’s request to put it off until after the presidential election.

2020 election

In what many see as historically the most significant case against Trump, this federal indictment is focused on the former president’s alleged efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

On August 1, Smith issued a four-count indictment charging Trump with three conspiracy counts and one obstruction count in connection with the scheme.

The indictment stemmed from the Justice Department’s massive investigation of the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

On August 3, the former president appeared in Washington, D.C., before a federal magistrate judge, who gave prosecutors one week to propose a trial date. In a subsequent filing, prosecutors proposed January 2, 2024, as the start date of Trump’s trial.

Last week, the federal judge overseeing the case, Tanya Chutkan, issued a protective order forbidding Trump from publicly discussing “sensitive” materials turned over to the defense. She set a hearing for August 28 to set a trial date.

Trump has complained that he can’t get a fair trial in Washington, a Democratic-leaning city.

A judge would have to approve a change of venue request, and it remains unclear if it will be granted.

Georgia election interference

Announced on Monday, the charges in this case grew out of a yearslong investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse Georgia’s 2020 election results.

The investigation was triggered by a now-infamous January 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked Raffensperger to help “find” the votes he needed to win the state.

The indictment in Georgia against former President Donald Trump is photographed, Aug. 14, 2023.
The indictment in Georgia against former President Donald Trump is photographed, Aug. 14, 2023.

But the probe expanded as investigations examined alleged efforts by Trump supporters to appoint a slate of fake presidential electors, make baseless claims about election fraud before the Georgia legislature, harass election workers and steal election equipment data.

The 41-count indictment stands out from the other three against Trump, as it names 19 co-defendants, including the former president, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and 30 unindicted co-conspirators.

The 97-page indictment accuses the group of conspiring to participate in a “criminal organization” to keep Trump in power.

Trump is charged with 13 counts. And while not every defendant faces the same charges, they all stand accused of violating one count of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

If convicted of the racketeering charge, Trump and his co-defendants could face five to 20 years in prison.

Willis said Monday that she’ll seek to try all 19 defendants together.

Implications for presidential bid

Although the outcome of the charges remains uncertain, there is a consensus among legal experts that even if convicted, Trump can still run for president.

The U.S. Constitution sets forth three key requirements for presidential candidates: They must be natural-born American citizens, at least 35 years old and residents of the United States for no less than 14 years. However, the Constitution is silent on the question of criminal records or convictions of candidates.

That means Trump could run for president as a convicted felon or even from behind bars, as Eugene V. Debs, a presidential candidate representing the Socialist Party, did more than a century ago.

Source : VOA News

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