After months of hearing evidence, hearing witness testimony, and deliberation, New York City’s grand jury has officially indicted former President Donald J. Trump in the case of hush money being paid to former porn star Stormy Daniels.
The indictment and yet-to-be-announced charges stem from Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, paying $130,000 to Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 campaign to ensure her silence about a previous sexual encounter. Cohen also alleges that a former playboy model, Karen McDougal, was also paid off. Although the specifics of each charge are still under review, the early indications are that DA Alvin Bragg is pursuing felony charges.
The path forward to felony charges seems a little murky and open to speculation as of now. Paying hush money is not a criminal offense; however, Trump’s reimbursement to Cohen, via several potentially mislabeled payments, would amount to a misdemeanor for falsifying business records. The upgrade to felony is also shrouded in mystery so far, but legal experts believe that DA Alvin Bragg is attempting to show that Trump intentionally defrauded the American people by suppressing the story of Stormy Daniels to keep his campaign alive leading up to the election. If Trump were found guilty of felonies, each potential count could hold a maximum of four years in jail for each count.
Numerous comments from Trump’s camp of political allies have labeled the proceedings political persecution. Even Mike Pence, whose relationship with Trump hit a snag in the fallout of January 6th, called the indictment “outrageous.” Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, has called the indictment “un-American,”; and although Trump has been quite critical of DeSantis (most likely seeing him as a future opponent in a presidential race), the governor has made it clear that he will not participate in the extradition of Trump from his Florida Mar-a-Lago location.
Lawmakers and changemakers on the left have also been critical of the indictment, seeing it as a potential misstep to lead the charge with the lesser of Trump’s charges. Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called the indictment “embarrassing and infuriating” because the other charges facing Trump are more serious in nature, including pressuring officials to overturn the 2020 election and potential financial kickbacks from foreign powers. A common fear from some of the critical voices from the left is that a loss in this indictment would cause a domino effect, jeopardizing all of the pending cases against Trump.