Former US President Donald Trump wrote on his social network Truth on Saturday that he will be arrested on Tuesday as part of an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The case he referred to concerns an alleged $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, which Trump allegedly made through his company and his former attorney Michael Cohen in 2016, to buy the actress silence on a sexual relationship I had with him about ten years earlier.
If it comes to an indictment, Trump would be the first former president in US history to face a criminal trial. However, the case is quite complicated, as well as still little known in certain passages, and it could be very difficult for the prosecutor to prove Trump’s guilt, which would in any case concern crimes considered minor.
Trump is running for president of the United States for the 2024 elections and his post was written mainly to urge his supporters to be indignant against what he believes to be political persecution. There are no further elements that suggest that his actual arrest is expected this week, but it is possible that soon the Manhattan district attorney who is following the investigation into the case, Alvin Bragg, will decide whether to seek indictment for Trump and start a process.
The case began with a meeting between Trump and Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Gregory, in 2006, when he was 60 and she was 27. The two first met during a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada : At the time Trump was already well known as host (as well as producer) of the reality show The Apprentice. The two talked and ate dinner together, and according to Daniels’ accounts, he promised to put her on her show. Daniels claimed that the two spent the night together (which Trump denied) and then saw each other again but never had sex again: Daniels never attended The Apprentice and said he soon stopped returning Trump’s calls . Trump was already married to his current wife Melania then.
In the following years Daniels tried several times to sell the story of her meeting with Trump to the newspapers, focusing in particular on the fact that he had promised her a television role to have sex with her without actually fulfilling the commitment. Daniels’ attempts with the newspapers, however, were unsuccessful. In one case, the newspaper that wanted to buy Daniels’ story contacted Trump for his version and the whole thing was handled by Michael Cohen, who was then the lawyer for Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, in charge of sorting out any problems of this type. Cohen threatened the paper with a lawsuit, and the paper decided to let it go.
In 2015 Trump decided to run for president of the United States and the story of the meeting with Daniels suddenly acquired more weight than it had had up to that moment. At the time, David Pecker, a friend of Trump and editor of the gossip newspaper National Enquirer, had committed to publishing articles that put him in a good light and possibly to buy stories that could ruin his reputation in order to remove them from the market (a practice that in English it is called catch and kill). That was what the National Enquirer did at the time with another woman, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, who wanted to sell the papers a story about her relationship with Trump between 2006 and 2007.
On October 7, 2016, about a month before the election, the Washington Post published a video from 2005 in which Trump made very vulgar and sexist comments. It was a media trouble and Daniels took the opportunity to try again to see his story, among others also at the National Enquirer. According to documents obtained by federal authorities, this time Pecker (the editor of the National Enquirer) put Trump’s attorney Cohen directly in touch with Daniels’ attorney Keith Davidson, and the two made a deal: Trump would pay $130,000 to Daniels for his silence about their sexual relationship (Cohen admitted there was a payment). In the agreement, the two were referred to by two pseudonyms and the real identities of the contracting parties were revealed in a separate letter.
Also according to the investigation documents, it took Cohen some time to figure out how to pay that sum without it showing up in Trump’s company financial statements, and eventually Cohen decided to make a payment directly from his own account – as he admitted during a testimony as early as 2018. According to investigations, during 2017 the Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen, but to hide the real reason for the payment, it recorded it as compensation for trumped-up legal advice. If charged, the prosecution would need to prove that Trump falsified these corporate documents with the intent to commit fraud to obtain a conviction: in this case, the sentence could be up to 4 years in prison.
From here on, however, things get more complicated and, as the New York Times writes, “the public understanding of Bragg’s theory remains obscure and incomplete”.
Indeed, Trump’s position would be aggravated if the prosecution were able to demonstrate that the falsification of company documents was done to hide another crime. This second offense, according to prosecutors, could be a violation of the law governing campaign finance, but it is not clear how and it is not even clear whether this would eventually be the responsibility of the Manhattan prosecutor or federal justice .
Another hypothesis is that Bragg is investigating other crimes related to this payment, which however have not been made public.
The main witness of the prosecution is Cohen himself, who in recent days testified before the jury charged with evaluating the elements of the investigation and already in 2018 he had pleaded guilty to violation of the law on electoral campaign finance and had admitted to having contributed to arrange payment for Daniels. In recent weeks, Bragg let Trump’s lawyers know that he could be indicted and gave the former president the opportunity to testify before the jury charged with assessing whether the evidence against him is sufficient to start a criminal trial.
In addition to the Daniels payment case, Trump is involved in several other court cases involving his alleged illegal campaign payments and election interference, attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, and for bringing hundreds of covered documents to his home. secrecy bond after leaving office.
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