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POLITICS

What is Trump accused of? What are the charges against him and what would happen if found guilty?

A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Donald Trump, marking the first time in history that a U.S. president, current or former, has been criminally charged.

Update:
Trump could face criminal charges in New York
BRETT ROJO/USA TODAY SPORTSvia REUTERS

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, contender in the 2024 election, has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, per multiple reports. However, the indictment was filed under seal, and is expected to be revealed in the next few days. The exact charges against him are not yet publicly known.

Trump could be facing a number of criminal charges stemming from various inquiries both at the state and federal level. Prosecutors in the Empire State had been looking into his business, but the first charges against him are believed to be in relation to hush money payments that he made to Stormy Daniels in 2016 to avoid bad press during his first presidential run.

What is Trump accused of?

Using his then long-time lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, a payment of $130,000 was made to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star who goes by her stage name Stormy Daniels. The money was paid to avoid her sharing accounts of the affair Trump had with the porn star a decade earlier prior to the 2016 election. The payments were made by Cohen who was later repaid by Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal counts as part of a plea deal in 2018 and was sentenced to three years in prison. Federal investigators dropped their inquiry into Trump’s involvement in the matter in 2019. However, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg opened a grand jury investigation, jump-starting an on-again, off-again criminal probe that dates back to 2016.

What are the charges against Trump and what would happen if found guilty?

The charges that Bragg is bringing against the former president would most likely be related to fraudulent bookkeeping. Because the statute of limitations has expired to charge Trump with a misdemeanor, a felony charge or charges could be expected. For this, the DA will need to show that in falsifying records to file the hush payments as a business expense, there was the intention of committing, aiding or concealing a second crime.

It’s unknown if charges will be brought in relation to campaign-finance violations. Presidential elections fall under federal law, but Bragg may attempt to use state campaign-finance laws, but this is uncharted water and would be legally complicated.

In the case of a felony charge of falsifying business records, were Trump to be convicted, he could face up to four years in prison. A verdict in this case would most likely not come for some time. According to former Manhattan chief assistant district attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the average criminal case in New York takes over a year to move from indictment to trial.

Trump is notorious for dragging out legal proceedings and his case is far from typical so a trial for this case could take place during the 2024 campaign, or even after Election Day.

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