4 questions about your future

Trump wearing a red hat that reads 'Make America Great Again'

Trump wearing a red hat that reads ‘Make America Great Again’

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brazil

Former US President Donald Trump faces the risk of imminent arrest on charges arising from the investigation into the payment of $ 130,000 to former porn actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 – which would be an attempt to buy her silence about an alleged affair sex between the two.

A grand jury in New York on Thursday approved his indictment, making him the first former US president to face criminal charges.

Below are some important questions about the case and what could happen in the coming days.

1. What is Trump accused of?

In 2016, porn star Stormy Daniels reached out to some media outlets, offering to reveal an extramarital affair she alleged she had with Trump in 2006.

But the then-presidential candidate’s legal team found out — and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep her silent.

This is not illegal. However, Trump’s payment to Cohen was recorded as legal fees in the Trump Organization’s books. And prosecutors say that amounts to falsifying business records, which is considered a misdemeanor in New York — but could become a misdemeanor if it’s proven to be crucial to committing another crime.

Prosecutors could also claim that this violates election law, because their attempt to hide the payment to the actress was motivated by not wanting voters to know that he had an extramarital affair.

Daniels received a payment from Trump's lawyer not to speak about his meeting with the then-presidential candidate

Daniels received a payment from Trump’s lawyer not to speak about his meeting with the then-presidential candidate

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

Even those in favor of indicting Trump recognize that this is not a straightforward case.

For starters, there is little precedent. And past attempts to accuse politicians of crossing the line between campaign finance and personal spending have failed.

“It’s going to be tough,” reckons Catherine Christian, a former New York financial attorney.

2. Why was he indicted?

The decision to file the indictment rested with New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

He convened a grand jury to determine whether there was enough evidence to prosecute the former president.

By Thursday afternoon, that jury reportedly decided to indict him. But details of the charges he will face in court have not been released.

Bragg is expected to notify Trump and his lawyers, opening the door to negotiations on how and when the former president will appear in New York City for his formal arrest and his first court appearance.

Alvin Bragg is the prosecutor in charge of the prosecution

Alvin Bragg is the prosecutor in charge of the prosecution

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brazil

The document with the official charges against Trump will not be released until it is read to him by a judge.

Given the historic nature of the issue and security concerns, the details of Trump’s trip to New York are somewhat unclear.

The ex-president’s lawyers have indicated that he will cooperate with the authorities – so no arrest warrant will be issued against him.

Trump has his own private plane that would take him to one of several airports in New York, and then he would drive to the respective courthouse in Manhattan.

3. Will Trump’s fingerprints be collected? Will he be handcuffed?

As part of these negotiations with prosecutors, he may end up being allowed into the courtroom through a private entrance, thus avoiding the so-called “defendant’s parade” in front of the press.

Once inside, Trump will be fingerprinted and photographed by police, as will all defendants in criminal cases.

His rights will also be read, which guarantee him to be defended by a lawyer and refuse to speak to the police.

The case could spark protests at the Manhattan courthouse where Trump is expected to appear.

The case could spark protests at the Manhattan courthouse where Trump is expected to appear.

Photo: Reuters / BBC News Brazil

Criminal defendants are often handcuffed at certain times during this phase, but Trump’s lawyers will try to prevent him from going through that.

The former president will also be accompanied by secret service agents throughout the process.

Afterwards, he will have to wait in a holding area or cell to appear before the judge.

The reading of the indictment, which is also the moment when the defendant pleads guilty or innocent before a judge, is a process open to the public.

Once the case is registered and the judge selected, further steps are taken: setting the trial date, setting possible travel restrictions and announcing the amount of bail.

A misdemeanor conviction would result in the payment of a fine.

A conviction on a criminal charge would carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Some legal experts believe the fine is more likely than the former president’s arrest.

4. Can he still run as a presidential candidate?

The indictment, or even a criminal conviction, would not stop Trump from continuing with his presidential campaign if he wants to.

And the former president himself has already shown signs that he will move forward regardless of what happens.

Nothing prevents Trump from continuing his campaign

Nothing prevents Trump from continuing his campaign

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

Indeed, there is nothing in US law that prevents a candidate found guilty of a felony from campaigning or serving as president, even from prison.

However, Trump’s arrest would certainly complicate his presidential campaign.

While it may cause some Republican voters to rally around the former president, it can be a significant distraction for a campaigning candidate trying to get votes and participate in debates.

It would also deepen already sharp divisions within the American political system.

Conservatives believe the former president is being held to a different standard of justice, while liberals see it as a matter of holding perpetrators accountable, even those in the highest spheres of power.

– This text was published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/articles/cye4ydzl7n1o

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