DemDaily: The Trials of Trump

March 20, 2023

Former President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he expects to be arrested this Tuesday, and called on his supporters to "Protest, take our nation back!"

Trump's declaration on his media site Truth Social, which eerily echoed his inflammatory posts leading up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, ignited a national media blitz that once again put the former president squarely in the limelight.

The announcement came as a surprise to his advisors and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, which has indicated that an indictment may be imminent in a case involving Trump's 2016 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels -- but has not come to a formal decision.

In last-minute legal maneuvering, a new witness, Robert Costello, who has represented former Trump attorney and fixer-turned-witness Michael Cohen and more recently Trump allies Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, appeared before the grand jury today at the request of Trump's defense team.

Costello was purportedly called to discredit Cohen, who testified that he orchestrated payments in 2016 to Daniels and former model Karen McDougal to silence them about sexual encounters they had with Trump.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations concerning the hush money payments, and to perjury related to a Senate investigation of the Trump Organization's ties to Russia, was sentenced to three years in federal prison. He was released to house arrest after a year, however, due to COVID safety concerns.

While it is unlikely that an indictment against Trump will be issued within the next 24 hours, city law enforcement officials are making security arrangements in preparation for a potential Trump court appearance in the coming weeks. Supporters on alt-right social media platforms have also called for an armed confrontation with law enforcement at Trump's Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, when or if an arrest is made.

Trump's preemptive notice allows him to take control of the media narrative and potentially inject life into his lackluster presidential campaign by rallying supporters to his cause.

Trump used the threat of indictment to boost his campaign fundraising, which has suffered amid defections by high-profile mega-donors since he announced in November. According to filings, he had raised a mere $9.5 million between his campaign and a joint fundraising committee by the end of the 2022 calendar year.

The announcement also provided a platform for Trump's allies to decry what Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called an “attempt to silence and suppress the will of the voters who support President Trump and the America First Movement.”

Trump's potential 2024 presidential rivals, forced to walk a fine public line with Trump supporters, directed their comments against Bragg. Former Vice President Mike Pence said the case was a "politically charged prosecution" and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused the Manhattan DA of "pursuing a political agenda."

The Trials of Trump
The pending indictment is likely a precursor to far more serious charges to come in multiple ongoing federal and state-level investigations regarding Trump's actions before, during, and after his presidency.

In a separate criminal probe by the Manhattan District Attorney, the Trump Organization was convicted in December on 17 counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records -- resulting in the maximum $1.61 million fine.

Trump and his children, who are senior executives in the company, were not charged personally at the time, but

Bragg said the judgment "ended a very important chapter" in the investigation, and that the probe will “go as long as the facts and the law require."

The evidence in that case arose in part due to a criminal referral from New York Attorney General Letitia James' mirror civil investigation, which is scheduled to go to trial October 2, 2023.

James announced the $250 million civil lawsuit in September 2022, charging Trump, the Trump Organization, three of his adult children and others for their part in a decade-long scheme to criminally defraud tax authorities.

Over 30 people from the Trump Organization, his family, and business associates have been arrested, indicted or imprisoned, including former Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg who was convicted in December 2022 of 15 felonies related to tax evasion.

The New York AG's 220-page lawsuit details ten years of "audacious" financial misconduct, investigated and documented by the DA's office over a three-year inquiry.

Then there are the multiple investigations and lawsuits related to the January 6th Capitol insurrection.

Department of Justice
The DOJ's investigation of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is the largest in its history, so far culminating in criminal charges against more than 1,000 individuals, including former Trump advisors.

As a part of its sweeping 2020 election interference investigation, the DOJ is reviewing the evidence and conclusions produced by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, which released its final report December 18, 2022.

The committee's 18-month investigation into the "sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power" recommended criminal charges against Trump and his co-conspirators at the national and state level, including obstruction of an official proceeding, defrauding the United States, and insurrection.

DOJ Independent Special Counsel Jack Smith is overseeing the operation, as well as the criminal investigation of Trump for his removal of hundreds of top-secret government records from the White House in possible violation of the Espionage Act.

In Georgia, the former president is under criminal investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis regarding his efforts to overturn the state's 2020 election results. That includes personally pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State, and his role in the scheme to send a fake slate of electors to Georgia's state Capitol.

A special grand jury has recommended over a dozen indictments, according to the jury's forewoman, which are under review by Willis before she presents them to a regularly seated grand jury for criminal charges.

Other pending lawsuits against Trump involving retaliation, defamation or damages include, among others, three separate civil suits brought by the US Capitol Police and DC Metropolitan Police alleging Trump incited the January 6 riot; a wrongful termination suit; and a sexual assault case, which is set to proceed April 25.

If Trump is indicted, it would be the first criminal case ever brought against a former US president.

DemDaily: CPAC Kowtows to Trump 3/6/23
DemDaily: Liars and Deniers 3/3/23
DemDaily: Red State, Blue State 2/27/23
DemDaily: The Contenders. The GOP Field Takes Shape 2/23/23
DemDaily: Trump Back On The Ballot 11/16/22
DemDaily: January 6 Committee Unleashes Final Report 12/20/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: NY AG's Office, BBC, New York Times, Reuters


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