Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 34 counts of first-degree falsification of business records, each count facing a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. increase.
That’s according to a newly opened indictment issued last week by a grand jury in New York.
The indictment marks the first time in U.S. history that a sitting or former U.S. president has faced criminal charges, and was indicted at a time when Trump was seeking the Republican nomination in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
The indictment documents were released Tuesday afternoon after Trump appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court for the first time and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The accusation is that Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid hush money during the 2016 presidential election to an adult film actor who alleges he had a sexual relationship with Trump a decade earlier. It originates from
Prosecutors say the $130,000 payment was part of an illegal plan to suppress articles that could undermine Trump’s candidacy. The Queerer tabloid publisher David Pecker was involved, buying the rights to some articles and never publishing them. As part of the scheme, Trump’s longtime friend Pecker also made two of his payments, prosecutors said. It turned out to be an error.
Trump reimbursed Cohen for Daniels’ payment in 2017, but prosecutors say it was disguised as payment for “legal services” Cohen never performed. , generate vouchers, and give Cohen monthly checks for $35,000, they accuse them of doing this.
The deception was repeated many times throughout 2017, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
At a press conference after Trump’s arraignment, Bragg said, “The defendant had documents in his hand containing material lies that he had paid Michael Cohen for legal services performed in 2017. I was there,” he said.
According to prosecutors, a series of 34 “false business entries” were made between February and December 2017, each claiming to be an invoice from Cohen, a voucher from the Trump Organization, or Trump or his It was shown to be a corporate check. These records form the basis of each of his 34 crime counts against Trump.
For example, Count 1 relates to the first bill Cohen filed with the Trump Organization on February 14, 2017. However, the indictment was actually intended to cover some of Cohen’s payments to Daniels.
Counts 2 and 3 relate to two separate vouchers made by the Trump Organization in response to an invoice. Count 4 is based on his $70,000 check issued to Cohen by the Donald J. Trump Revokable Trust.
In total, Cohen received 11 checks from Trump totaling $420,000. The first two of his were from Trump’s trust, and the rest were from personal bank accounts when Trump was on state affairs at the White House.
Prosecutors detailed the plan in a “statement of fact” attached to the indictment.
“Each check was processed by the Trump Organization, and each check was disguised as payment for legal services rendered under an attorney contract in a particular month of 2017,” prosecutors wrote. “Payment records kept and maintained by the Trump Organization were fake New York business records.”
Falsification of business records or “misrepresenting a company’s business records” is a crime in New York.
District Attorney Bragg called it the “bread and butter” of his office’s work on white-collar crime.
crime It is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. However, if carried out with the intent of committing or covering up another crime, he would reach the level of felony with a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
The indictment does not identify Trump’s other alleged crimes, but prosecutors, both in their factual statements and in their post-arraignment public comments, said they could be used as “predicate offenses” in the case. I have listed some possible violations.
One is a potential violation of New York state election law, making it a crime to “promote or prevent” the election of a political candidate by “illegal means.” In New York, “illegal means” often refers to actions not permitted by law.
The other is a violation of federal election campaign laws that limit contributions to candidates well below the $130,000 Daniels was paid.
Finally, prosecutors allege that the hush payment was misreported as income to New York tax authorities in clear violation of New York tax law.
Joshua Stanton, an attorney at Perry Guha Law Firm, said the alleged secondary offenses led prosecutors to commit several other crimes each time Trump violated New York’s business records law. He said he could argue that it was intended.
“And that puts them in a position to secure a conviction if they can demonstrate intent to commit any of these crimes…” Stanton, who wrote extensively about the case, said in an interview with VOA. “It also provides the Manhattan Attorney’s Office some solid footing should Trump very likely file a motion to dismiss.”
In the past, New York prosecutors have used the “falsification of business records” law to prosecute a wide range of criminal offenses, from violating the Bank Secrecy Act to covering up sex crimes.
Nevertheless, many legal experts question the novel legal theory at the heart of the prosecution.
John Malcolm, vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said his allegations against Trump weren’t “particularly strong,” but they couldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
“These are felonies and they have to be taken seriously,” Malcolm told VOA. “But I think it’s a very unusual charge.”
Malcolm said both the Justice Department and the Federal Elections Commission (the agency tasked with investigating violations of federal campaign finance laws) investigated hush money payments and closed their investigations without indicting him. pointed out.
“I think Donald Trump has a lot of defenses against this that he can argue against,” Malcolm said. In addition, he intends to make the argument that no one in a similar position would have been prosecuted in this manner, and I tend to think that is probably correct.”
https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-in-trouble-explaining-the-34-criminal-counts-against-the-former-president/7036849.html Describes 34 criminal charges against former president