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The People vs. Donald J. Trump: The Story so Far

Updated: May 24, 2023

On Tuesday 4th April 2023, former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office. This relates to allegations that he arranged hush-money payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep them quiet about alleged sexual encounters with him before the 2016 US presidential election. These charges make Trump the first sitting or former US president to face criminal charges.

The charges against Trump stem from an attempt to conceal a violation of election laws during his 2016 campaign. The legal argument against Trump being that because such payments were made to strengthen his election hopes they should be regarded as campaign expenditure, but they were not. As far as we know, the payments were made by Trump's former Attorney, Michael Cohen, who admits facilitating the payments to Ms. Daniels and McDougal, with the transaction being kept well away from the campaign books. This will make up the foundation of the case against Trump, who pleaded not guilty to the charges and left court without commenting. Later, he could be found at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, addressing family, friends and campaign backers, with a mass of grievances against the case and all parties involved. Even indulging in accusations of the New York prosecution committing election interference themselves for having the gaul to bring this case against him.

Falsifying business records in New York is typically a misdemeanor (non-indictable), but it then becomes a felony punishable by up to four years in prison when done to advance or conceal another crime, such as election law violations. Whether or not the motivation behind the payments can be obfuscated is the work of Trump's legal team, but one would assume the case won't stick. After Trump denied all counts the judge set the next hearing for 4 December 2023, and legal experts suggest that a trial may not begin for another year, so there is plenty time for campaigning.

If convicted of any of the 34 charges, Trump could face up to four years in prison, but an indictment or even conviction would not prevent him from running for president in 2024. Trump’s lawyer has stated that the former president is motivated and will not be slowed down by the charges (Florida's Sudafed suppliers are rubbing their hands).

There was a bit of a media frenzy pre-court visit as to whether we'd end up receiving a classic mugshot of the former President... but it was not to be. Funnily enough, these kinds of mugshots are only taken if there is an expectation that the accused party may turn fugitive and need tracked down; and although he is a wildcard, the chances of him going feral and living in an underground bunker in South America seem slim (for now). We were however treat to a wonderful clip of him walking into court, door slowly closing on his face.

Despite the lack of a mugshot the Trump camp still moved to take advantage of the case by creating their own for its campaign fundraising effort. See below the eclectic range of "Not Guilty" merch available from the Make America Great Again (Again!) campaign.

It appears that the Trump team will waste no time, and no opportunity, to utilise his recent indictment in their promotional materials as they gear up for a potential run for the Republican nomination against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Despite a judge recently admonishing him for his wild social media posting on his platform Truth Social, his unapologetic (some say treasonous) approach to politics remains unchanged and his campaign appears to be using all of this as a tool to garner support and portray themselves as a victim of a politically motivated attack. It remains to be seen how effective this tactic will be in the long run, but it is clear that the Trump camp will not shy away from the issue.

While the indictment case may yet alter the political narrative surrounding his potential candidacy, one thing is clear: he is once again back on the menu in the US political plane.

See below: The People vs. Donald Trump instagram post.

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