Former President Trump Arraigned on 34 Felony Counts
by pedro graterol
April 4th was a landmark moment in U.S. history as former president Donald Trump was arraigned in the Manhattan Criminal Court and charged with 34 felony counts indicting him in a scheme to bury allegations of an extramarital affair that arose during his first White House campaign.
This makes Trump the first former president to ever be charged in the U.S. criminal system. Notably, he is not the first one arrested. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested in Washington D.C. for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage. Trump’s charges, however, are drastically different. He is being charged with the alleged falsification of internal business records with the purpose of trying to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by silencing Stormy Daniels, an adult actress with whom he had an extramarital relationship in 2006.
The former president pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. Under the law, each count of falsifying business records can be punishable with up to 4 years in prison. However, it remains unclear if Judge Juan Merchan would impose any prison time on Trump, if convicted. According to the Associated Press, Trump will be expected to appear in court again on December 4th, a mere two months before the formal start of the Republican nomination process.
However, the process that began unfolding is long and complicated. According to NBC News, within 15 days of arraignment, the prosecution must turn all gathered evidence to the defense team, from every record obtained through subpoenas to the minutes of the grand jury process. In addition, Trump’s legal team has already said that it will file motions to try to get the case dismissed. In the same NBC News article, it was stated that the defense has 45 days to make motions after the arrangement. Yet, the judge has the prerogative of extending this time.
During his first public response to the historic arraignment on Tuesday, Trump referred to the 34 felony charges against him related to alleged hush-money payments to a former porn star as a “massive election interference at a scale never seen before in our country.” He also accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of wrongdoing and claimed to be the victim of a vast conspiracy. “The only crime that I’ve committed,” he stated, “is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.” In addition, it appears to have rallied Republicans around the former President, even those who were previously critical of him. Sen. Mitt Romney, one of Trump’s critics, dismissed the charges as politically motivated, stating, “I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda.”
Surprisingly, polling indicates that the indictment may have even boosted Trump’s popularity among voters. A Yahoo! News-YouGov poll conducted after the indictment found that 57% of respondents would vote for Trump over his perceived top rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. This represents a significant surge in support for Trump since February when DeSantis led him in the same poll. Trump even held leads among independents, Evangelical Christians, and voters of all ages and education levels.
Another poll released by Reuters/Ipsos also showed that Trump’s support among Republicans had increased since the indictment, with 48% of respondents saying they want Trump as their nominee, up from 44% in March. Conversely, support for DeSantis dropped to 19% following the charges. Despite the clear evidence presented in the grand jury indictment, it is unlikely to persuade GOP primary voters that Trump’s behavior is disqualifying. In fact, a CNN poll found that most Republicans do not believe that Trump’s actions were illegal, with over 50% of respondents stating that the payments were unethical but not illegal. Additionally, more than 1 in 5 Republicans believed that Trump’s alleged crimes were “not wrong at all.” We are still months away from the trial and the resolution of this case, and the former president is facing investigations in Georgia for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election, and by the Justice Department for the mishandling of classified documents. So, more charges can be on the way. Nevertheless, a conviction would not legally prevent Trump’s attempt from running or winning in 2024.
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