Trump indicted for falsifying business records

Nandita Kumar, Staffer

April jumped to a surprising start when former president Donald J. Trump was criminally charged for intentionally covering up a sex scandal between himself and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Currently, Trump has pled not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. Several years after their sexual encounter, Daniels informed Trump that she would be releasing an account of their relationship. To ensure that she wouldn’t release the story until after the election, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen offered Daniels $130,000. Agreeing to this arrangement, she accepted the hush money, and did not release the story until Trump had been elected. 

Because it was Cohen who made the payments to Daniels, Trump made 34 separate reimbursement payments to Cohen in 2017, labeling the expense on his taxes as “legal services.” Here lies the first question for the jury: was the payment related to the election, or meant to be kept a secret to spare the feelings of Melania and his son? New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg needs to prove that it was in fact the former, that Trump used this money to protect his candidacy. This is because as a presidential candidate, Trump needed to label all payments involving his campaign as “campaign expenditures.” By not doing so, he would be committing fraud. 

Bragg’s greatest source of difficulty lies in proving Trump’s intent. There is no clear evidence of what Trump’s goal was in paying off Daniels. Without something other than circumstantial evidence of intent, Trump is only truly guilty of a misdemeanor. As this case begins its long process, we can only speculate about its potential of ending in a conviction. The case will be heard early in 2024 until then, Trump continues to bolster his campaign to run for election in 2024.