Jump to Trump’s New York Criminal Case
Donald Trump’s first criminal trial, set to begin in March, hangs in the balance as a New York judge prepares to rule on a crucial motion that could derail the entire case. Trump’s legal team argue that charges are politically motivated and it lack legal merit which potentially dealing a major blow to prosecutors.
Scheduled to commence on March 25, Former President, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is set to face trial in a state court located in Manhattan. He stands accused of falsifying business records to disguise a payment made in the year preceding 2016 election, which was allegedly paid by him to an adult film star.
Justice Juan Merchan is scheduled to make a ruling on Feb. 15 regarding Former President’s request to dismiss the 34-count indictment. Former President has pleaded not guilty and argued that the case should be dismissed as it is partisan in nature and federal elections are beyond state laws.
The outcome of Merchan’s decision will determine whether this case becomes Former President’s inaugural criminal trial prior to his anticipated election rematch against President Joe Biden, a Democrat, on November 5.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office indicted Former President in 2023 on 34 counts of falsifying business records, stemming from hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. These alleged financial manipulations, prosecutors claim were designed to hide these payments and protect the Trump Organization from taxation as well as insurance liabilities.
The focal point of the Manhattan case revolves around the $130,000 payment made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels. The purpose of this payment was to prevent her from publicly claiming that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, while he was still married. Trump, however, denies any involvement in the affair.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws. The charges against Trump, brought forth by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in April 2023, allege that Trump’s New York-based family real estate company falsely recorded reimbursements to Cohen as a legal retainer. Prosecutors argue that this violated a state law against falsifying business records in order to conceal another crime. In this case, they claim that the payment to Daniels violated federal campaign finance law and was part of a scheme to unlawfully promote a candidacy, thus violating state law.
Critics have argued that this case is less significant than others Trump has faced, as it pertains to his private life prior to assuming office, rather than actions taken as president that could impact elections or national security.
During a radio interview in December, Bragg characterized the case in terms of election integrity. He stated, “It’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election and then lying in New York business records to cover it up – that’s the heart of the case,” during an interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.“
Trump’s attorneys argue the charges are politically driven and based on an “animus” against their client. They contend that the case is outside New York state law and this amounts to double jeopardy since Trump was already impeached on similar allegations. Besides the indictment is said to violate Trump’s due process rights and have been interpreted too broadly under law.
Trump’s legal team contended that Bragg, a Democrat, had engaged in “selective prosecution” against him in their motion for dismissal. Bragg’s office countered by stating that anyone else who had acted similarly would have faced prosecution, citing Cohen’s admission of guilt.
Additionally, Trump’s lawyers argued that state prosecutors could not utilize Trump’s alleged concealment of federal election law violations as grounds for the charges of falsifying records. They further claimed that state election law did not pertain to candidates running for federal office.
In response, Bragg’s office asserted that the law regarding falsification of business records was not limited to cases involving state-level offenses. They also emphasized that state election law is applicable to federal campaigns.
The Judge’s Decision:
On the following week, Judge Juan Merchan will make his decision on dismissal motion. In the event that he supports Trump, everything else falls apart and may provide a huge legal win for former president Donald J. On the other hand, if the judge denies this motion then a well-publicized trial is to be held on March 25th.
A previous ruling by a judge has already gone against Trump based on similar reasons. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein denied Trump’s attempt to transfer the case to federal court last year, stating that the New York election law does not differentiate between state and federal elections. Additionally, Hellerstein pointed out that the law regarding falsification of business records does not provide an exemption for federal elections.
This case carries significant weight not only for Trump personally but also for American democracy. A dismissal could be seen as a vindication for Trump and his supporters, emboldening them and casting doubt on the legitimacy of investigations into his conduct. Conversely, a successful prosecution would represent a historic rebuke of a former president, demonstrating that no individual is above the law.
Beyond New York:
It’s crucial to remember that this is just one of several legal challenges Trump faces. Investigations and potential charges loom in Georgia related to the 2020 election, and Florida prosecutors are also scrutinizing his financial dealings.
The judge’s decision next week marks a pivotal moment in Trump’s legal saga. Regardless of the outcome, the case is guaranteed to remain a focal point of national attention, sparking debate and impacting the political landscape as the 2024 presidential election draws closer.
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