By Mike Sherr
Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury on March 30, according to The New York Times. While the charge has not been directly revealed at time of writing, the decision was based on a hush money scandal that occurred in 2016. The 45th president is facing other legal challenges, as well including possible interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election and the withholding of classified documents at Mar-a-lago.
The troubles began back in 2018 when former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance laws, tax evasion and making false statements to a bank. Part of the federal case was Cohen’s role in pressuring the American Media Inc. (AMI) to pay $280,000 in 2016 to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, to stay quiet about their relationship with Trump.
Soon after the guilty verdict was released, the National Enquirer, whose parent company is the AMI, made a statement that they worked directly with then Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump to pay the hush money.
Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg (D) began presenting evidence and testimony to a grand jury in January 2023. This case is focusing on Trump and his role in attempting to hide the two relationships from voters. The exact crime that Trump has been indicted for has not been released.
The Manhattan grand jury’s decision to convict Trump has been continuously pushed back as they hear more testimony from this and other cases. The decision was anticipated for the week of March 20, but was finally revealed 10 days later.
Currently, Trump remains at his Mar-a-lago home in Florida until, according to his lawyers, the Secret Service deems any transportation and surrender safe enough. The former president, according to AP News, is likely to surrender himself on April 4.
This is not, however, the only legal issue facing the former president. Bragg is reportedly working with New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) in a civil case regarding Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization over asset value manipulation.
In Georgia, Trump faces a much greater charge in a case regarding the 2020 election. In February 2021, according to NPR, Fulton County DA Fani Willis announced a criminal investigation into Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election results.
Willis formed a special grand jury in January 2022, according to AP, in order to investigate actions taken in the weeks following the 2020 election. In a note sent to government officials, Willis notified the state government that her office will be investigating any information regarding “the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration.”
Willis and the grand jury are focusing partly on a phone call between Trump, Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and various lawyers.
“So look,” Trump said on the call. “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
The special grand jury, which did not have the authority to issue an indictment, recommended multiple criminal charges to the Georgia DA in released excerpts of the full report, according to The Wall Street Journal. Willis is expected to pursue criminal charges through a traditional grand jury similarly to the Manhattan case.
The Georgia case has been put on hold, however, since Trump lawyers filed for the Georgia DA to be prohibited from pursuing criminal charges against the former president. The filing, according to Politico, is based on an argument that the special grand jury report was tainted by comments made to the media by the judge and jurors, who are legally free to discuss some parts of the investigation.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney requested a response about the Trump lawyers’ filing from Willis’ office on March 27, according to Reuters, putting any possible future criminal charges into limbo.
As if these legal challenges were not enough to spell trouble for the former president, Trump is facing two separate investigations by the federal Department of Justice, according to PBS.
One investigation focuses broadly on Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election. This investigation spans from his pressure on Former Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the electoral ballots to his call with Raffensberger, according to The Washington Post.
The second investigation is surrounding Trump's unauthorized handling of national security documents at his Mar-a-lago home. At first, Trump turned over documents to The National Archives but was soon under more scrutiny after an FBI search in August 2022.
Both federal investigations are being headed by special counsel Jack Smith, a former Department of Justice employee and former war crime investigator for the International Criminal Court, according to NPR.
What does this all mean for the former president? Trouble.
Trump, if found guilty for any of the listed crimes, would continue to make history in the United States. Not only would he be the only president to be impeached twice, the first president to not disclose their tax returns since Nixon and one of a handful of presidents who have ever contested an election, Trump would be the first president, former or sitting, to be convicted of a crime.
Currently, however, if Trump is worried about his legal troubles, he is barely showing it. The former president has spent his time attacking the Democratic DAs and Department of Justice officials who are investigating him rather than arguing against the cases themselves. While on the campaign trail in Waco, Texas, Trump declared the United States a “banana republic” and his legal challenges as witch hunts.
Trump called for national protests on his social media platform, Truth Social, over a week before his indictment was even announced, according to The New York Times. On March 30, Fox News pundits, including Tucker Carlson, similarly called for national protests on primetime opinion shows, according to the Washington Post. As of writing, no major protests have been reported in Washington D.C. nor in New York.
With one case already moving forward, it is clear that Trump will face greater difficulty in the quickening 2024 presidential race. It is unclear, however, how the Manhattan indictment will be viewed by moderate voters who are key to the former president’s chances of obtaining the Republican nomination.