United States – Trump would be the first U.S. former president to appear in court under criminal charges; it is a hush-money case to an adult actress Stormy Daniels. This case has implications both politically and legally as Trump seeks a comeback to the White House, his wanted seat.

The trial is set for the opening date on April 15 in Manhattan. It is the first but not the last of the four prosecution cases regarding Trump, but it may be the only one to have been completed before the November 5 election, in which he was a candidate for the post of the US President, opposing President Joe Biden, as reported by Reuters.

Trump Denies Charges Amidst Legal Battleground

Trump, 77, pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of fictitious business records in the case brought by the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump is accused of orchestrating the $130,000 payment that his lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, had made to Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign to make her shut about a purported sexual encounter she said she had with him at a Lake Tahoe hotel in the year 2006 and further falsely signing other documents to veil the payment.

Porn star Stephanie Clifford who is the real name Trump has stated was made for her silence of the “false and extortionist accusations.”

Complex Legal Landscape Surrounding Trump’s Legal Woes

U.S. Former President Donald Trump. Credit | REUTERS

In Washington, Trump is facing federal charges, too, and additionally, state charges in Georgia arising from his attempts to overthrow his 2020 election defeat to Biden, alongside federal charges in Florida of illegally storing classified documents after leaving office in 2021. It remains to be seen how he will deal with his legal woes, but so far, he has pleaded not guilty to all of them and has called the charges politically motivated.

The hush money case indictment is not something that we have not heard of before – the revelations of the payoff made headlines in the year 2018 – and the facts may seem more scandalous and less consequential to Trump’s other three indictments. The Department of Justice of the United States of America looked into the issue in the past, and Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violations of federal campaign finance laws, stating that Trump directed him to reimburse the money to Daniels. The federal prosecutors abstained from filing charges against the ex-president and closing the investigation in 2019.

Bragg has argued that the matter is about Trump’s attempt to stop (or corrupt) the election of 2016 – the businessman-turned-politician who defeated the Democratic rival Hillary Clinton – through an arrangement where he would purchase their silence about him involving potentially damaging information.

As per prosecutors, Cohen was also involved in payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has claimed that she too had a sexual relationship with Trump – an allegation that Trump has denied.

In New York, forging business records to commit or conceal another crime is a Felony punishable by four years in prison.

The other three criminal cases do not have any definitive trial date set. However, if Trump re-gains the White House, he will most likely end the two federal cases before they even come to trial.

FUNDRAISING BOOST

Funding towards Donald Trump’s campaign grew steeply after the April 2023 arrest of Bragg. His position, ahead of other rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, strengthened, a lead he has never lost. Trump, in fact, got the delegates he needed in March in order to earn his party’s nomination.

A Trump spokesman, Jason Miller, chose not to comment on the trial.

A few of those who forecast political directions even say that Trump could be hurt in his bid for the presidency because of a possible criminal conviction.

Mary Anna Mancuso, a strategist who is affiliated with the Republican Party but does not support Donald Trump, noted that if he is found guilty, it would be a scary fact many voters would have to contemplate with.

“They will be forced,” Mancuso said, “to ask themselves questions like: ‘How can I choose a governor who would not adequately fulfill the duties of a President, e.g., receiving foreign ambassadors?’ How could a certain offense lead to imprisonment, or some might be under curfew?

In the latest February Reuters poll, around a quarter of self-named Republicans and nearly a half of independents stated that given Trump was convicted of a felony plot by a jury, they would not vote for him. The connection could be crucial in a close race.

Legal Maneuvers and Judicial Dynamics

Judge Juan Merchan has imposed a gag order that bans Trump from making public remarks about trial visitors and their relatives. Trump has made a disrespectful online post about Merchan’s daughter. The judge was reluctant to halt the trial because Trump claimed ordinary immunity and wanted to appeal the matter to the US Supreme Court in his case of U.S. Federal Election Subversion.

‘PRETTY RESILIENT’

According to Kyle Kondik from the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a nonpartisan political analyst, he is not sure whether the Hush Money trial would be damaging because people are now used to the fact that he does not observe norms.

“We don’t really have any sort of precedent for this. And we also have a long history of Trump being pretty resilient,” Kondik added.

Kondik said a conviction of the former president can tip the scales in an election that may be won with meager margins.

Rebecca Roiphe, an ex-Manhattan assistant district attorney and NYC law school professor, believes that Bragg’s squad would deploy the elections connection to undercut the notion that the case is less significant among prospective jurors than other cases, as reported by Reuters.

“I don’t think it’s nothing that this case strikes people as small, that nobody would bother with if it were somebody other than Trump,” Roiphe added.

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