He calls it a hoax, a witch hunt, and a conspiracy to end his presidential campaign, but Donald Trump could be indicted this week for actions concerning the hush payments to an adult video star. This could be the tip of the iceberg. There are three more investigations ongoing against him.
What if the former president faces additional indictments? More than one jurisdiction is in the mix, so he could someday be arrested in Washington, D.C.; Fulton County, Georgia; or New York City.
Background on Trump Legal Cases
Let’s take a look at the legal jeopardy against him. First, Trump is in trouble for making a $130,000 payout to adult entertainment actress Stormy Daniels. This was made possible by his attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen, who is now serving time in prison. The money to Daniels was paid to keep the ex-president’s alleged extramarital affair quiet at the end of the 2016 campaign.
If the district attorney pursues the charges against Trump it would be the first time that a former president has been accused of a crime. It is not clear what the exact charges could be in the Daniels case, but speculation has centered around the Trump Organization falsely claiming on business documents that the payments made to Cohen were legal fees and that the installments could have violated campaign finance laws. Trump has denied both the affair and the payments to Daniels.
Classified Documents and January 6 Investigation
Second, Trump is being investigated by a special counsel for allegedly mishandling classified documents that were found stored at his estate at Mar-a-Lago. At least one hundred papers found have classified markings that were either secret or top secret.
The investigation could find that the seizure is evidence of him violating the Espionage Act. Trump could also be accused of obstructing the investigation. Trump and his attorneys said the president rightfully declassified the material first and that he is protected by “executive privilege” that would allow him to remove papers from the White House legally.
Third, Trump’s activities leading up to and during the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the capitol complex are the subject of further investigation by the special counsel. A congressional committee investigated his actions for 18 months and recommended criminal charges for inciting an insurrection and three other instances of illegal wrongdoing.
The Department of Justice is running a probe into these allegations. Trump has said the entire investigation is a political attempt to hurt his campaign from a “kangaroo court.”
Trouble In Georgia
Fourth, Trump is being investigated by the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia for the former president’s alleged activities to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Trump wanted Georgia Secretary of State to “find the votes” that would have put him over the top in a state that President Joe Biden won.
A special grand jury has delivered a sealed report that is expected to recommend at least one indictment against Trump for racketeering and conspiracy. The Fulton Country district attorney could then decide to convene a criminal grand jury to examine Trump’s post-election activities. Trump has said his call to the secretary of state was “perfect.”
What Would Happen Next?
One of the difficulties of handicapping Trump’s legal predicaments is that no other former president has been charged with a crime and that the investigations against Trump, especially about the hush money, January 6 activities, and alleged post-election meddling in Georgia, have never happened before. We are in uncharted waters. Some of the charges could be misdemeanors and some could be felonies. It is not clear what the indictments would specifically be and what Trump could be sentenced for. This makes defending him more difficult.
Trump has said he would stay in the race for a potential rematch with President Joe Biden. The Stormy Daniels indictment could take months to adjudicate and likely a year before will go to court. That would mean that Trump would still have several months before the general election should he win the nomination.
The Constitution does not say anything about a president or potential president who is accused or convicted of crimes outside the White House. This would then not exclude Trump from running with one or more indictments against him. States can also not stop indicted or convicted people from pursuing elected office.
Even if Trump went to jail for any of the accusations, he could still run his campaign and even be elected. So, the real litmus test for Trump’s election would be up to the voters. The court of public opinion is just as important as the criminal justice system in the coming months. His supporters would coalesce around him and some Independents could lean toward supporting him if they believed the criminal prosecution was not fair to Trump. This could all lead to only misdemeanor convictions and a sentence that would require no jail time. That’s what Trump hopes will happen, but investigators and prosecutors have bigger plans for Trump that could include sending him behind bars.
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Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.