The Trials Against Trump Fall Apart, Except in NYC

The latest in what’s happening in New York, Georgia, Florida, and D.C. courtrooms.

The story

With six months to go until the 2024 presidential election, several of former President Trump’s criminal trials are underway.

In Manhattan, Donald Trump is facing prosecution for allegedly falsifying the transaction behind a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Since this crime is only a misdemeanor (with an expired statute of limitations), District Attorney Alvin Bragg raised it to a felony by accusing Trump of masterminding a larger scheme to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

On Monday, his former lawyer and serial perjurer Michael Cohen testified that he was ordered to pay Daniels at Trump’s behest, describing a “catastrophic” threat to the billionaire’s 2016 presidential campaign if the story was leaked to the public.

In Florida, multiple pretrial issues, including evidence tampering, have caused the trial to be postponed, very likely until after the 2024 election. Donald Trump is accused of mishandling top-secret documents and willfully retaining them even when asked by the federal government to return them. These accusations also include obstruction of justice in the former president’s attempt, along with several of his aides, to delete Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage.

In Georgia, Trump and 18 others were indicted in 2023 of racketeering under the RICO act, a charge typically reserved for mafia bosses. He was further indicted on other charges in an alleged attempt to pressure public officials to change the election results. The trial was recently delayed due to ongoing controversies with Georgia’s District Attorney Fani Willis having a romantic affair with the lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade.

In Washington, D.C., Donald Trump was charged with four felonies, including conspiracy to defraud the United States in his alleged attempts to change the results of the 2020 election. The Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Trump could claim presidential immunity from this case, which would have massive implications for the future of presidential conduct. This case is also likely to be held after the 2024 election.

The sides

Critics of the president on the left often do not argue against the merits of the hush money trial, but comment on his behavior and actions as president. They say he is a narcissist, a boor, and a hypocrite, but despite whether he made poor decisions or took advantage of those around him, many are reluctant to admit that the trial genuinely holds legal merit.

On the right side of the aisle, though not exclusively so, there is more confidence that Trump will not be found guilty on the substance of the matter. Popular conservative columnist and lawyer Andy McCarthy bluntly stated what many on the right agree with, “The state must prove that [Trump] acted, not just intentionally, but with an intent to defraud. Here, there was no fraud. No one here was duped out of any money — again, including the state.”

Beyond the headlines

When Stormy Daniels took the stand to share “unnecessary” details about her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump, it illustrated to Americans the unserious nature of this trial; that it is not about getting to the bottom of a falsified business record, rather, it’s about revenge and humiliating the former president in front of the American people.

Michael Cohen, the serial liar who is one of the key witnesses in the hush money ordeal, also testified against his former boss. Cohen has lied in the courtroom, to banks, to the media, and pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. His credibility is shot, yet the prosecution is still using him as a reliable witness.

D.A. Alvin Bragg needed Cohen to confirm that Trump intentionally committed fraud. All Cohen confirmed, however, was that Trump was aware of the payment for Daniels’ nondisclosure agreement and its intention to be buried before the election - none of which is illegal.

What’s more, the judge’s daughter is a prominent Democratic operative, whose clients have raised tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations, leveraging the trial in their solicitation emails. This seemingly presents a major conflict of interest, yet the case persists without the judge’s recusal.

Why it matters

Donald Trump's facing four criminal trials is unprecedented in American politics. With the New York trial likely to be the only one taken up before the 2024 election, Donald Trump is up against a 12-person jury in the heart of one of the most heavily Democratic regions in the country.

Regardless of the case's merits, the presence of a potentially biased jury raises the possibility of Trump being found guilty. Before the November election, a former U.S. president could be sent to jail on, so to speak, Trumped-up charges.

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