Trump facing criminal charges in hush-money case
Ex-US president’s legal worries extend far beyond New York
New York (AP):
The hush-money case in New York that has led to criminal charges against Donald Trump is just one of a number of investigations that could pose legal problems for the former president.
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, confirmed on Thursday that he had been informed that the former president had been indicted on charges involving payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter. The specific charges were not immediately made public.
Trump, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and says he is being targeted by Democrats trying to keep him from reclaiming the White House.
Tacopina said in a statement: “He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”
The district attorney’s investigation centred on money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public with claims that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.
In bringing the charges, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is embracing an unusual case that had been investigated by two previous sets of prosecutors, both of which declined to take the politically explosive step of seeking Trump’s indictment.
In the weeks leading up to the indictment, Trump railed about the investigation on social media and urged supporters to protest on his behalf, prompting tighter security around the Manhattan criminal courthouse.
Trump faces other potential legal perils as he seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who are seeking or are likely to oppose him for the presidential nomination.
The district attorney in Atlanta has for two years been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 vote count. And a US Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and his efforts to reverse his election loss.
The fate of the hush-money investigation seemed uncertain until word got out in early March that Bragg had invited Trump to testify before a grand jury, a signal that prosecutors were close to bringing charges.
Trump’s attorneys declined the invitation, but a lawyer closely allied with the former president briefly testified in an effort to undercut the credibility of Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
Late in the 2016 presidential campaign, Cohen paid Daniels US$130,000 to keep her silent about what she says was a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier after they met at a celebrity golf tournament.
Cohen was then reimbursed by Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, which also rewarded the lawyer with bonuses and extra payments logged internally as legal expenses. Over several months, Cohen said, the company paid him US$420,000.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen had also arranged for the publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer to pay Playboy model Karen McDougal US$150,000 to squelch her story of a Trump affair in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill”.
The payments to the women were intended to buy secrecy, but they backfired almost immediately as details of the arrangements leaked to the news media.
Cohen was charged in 2018 with violating federal campaign finance laws, as prosecutors argued that the payments amounted to impermissible help to Trump’s presidential campaign. He pleaded guilty to those charges and unrelated tax evasion counts and served time in federal prison.
Here’s a look at the probes under way in various states and venues:
MAR-A-LAGO: Of all the inquiries Trump faces, a Justice Department probe into the retention of top secret government documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, could present the most significant legal jeopardy, with investigators saying in court filings last year that they were examining potential violations of multiple felony statutes.
2020 ELECTION AND CAPITOL RIOT: Smith has also been leading a team investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election that Trump falsely claimed was stolen.
A House committee that investigated the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol has recommended that the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Trump and associates who helped him launch a wide-ranging pressure campaign to try to overturn his 2020 election loss.
GEORGIA: After his 2020 election loss, Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and urged him to “find 11,780 votes” – just enough to overtake Joes Biden and overturn Trump’s narrow loss in the state.
It is up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, to decide whether to convene a regular grand jury and pursue criminal charges in the case. The foreperson on the special grand jury that investigated the case publicly in February that the panel had recommended multiple indictments.
NEW YORK: New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump and the Trump Organization, alleging they misled banks and tax authorities about the value of assets including golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
That lawsuit could lead to civil penalties against the company if James, a Democrat, prevails. A civil trial is scheduled for October.
In a separate civil case in federal court in New York, Trump has been accused of raping a former magazine columnist in a dressing room in the mid-1990s. That case is scheduled to go to trial on April 25.
Trump has repeatedly insisted he never met the columnist, E. Jean Carroll, at the store and has dismissed her rape claims.