Unarguably, Donald Trump is America’s most-investigated president. Among the many investigations he is subjected to, the one before the Manhattan District Attorney is getting closer to indictment. Bad luck for Mr Trump, a negative decision in the Manhattan case will only be the beginning in a series of indictments. The more the prosecutors sweat arguing his numerous cases and the more Mr Trump manages to avoid an indictment year after year, the more he looks certain to be indicted for felonious charges.
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Momentous Turn of Events
The reasons are not far to seek. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has already thrown up strong clues on an imminent case-closure. Prosecutors are almost there to criminally indict Mr Trump for his dubious role in the hush-money payment to adult-film celebrity Stephanie Gregory Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, allegedly for having sex. The turn of events, in the federal inquiry soon after, confirms the collective arrival of cases, much to Mr Trump’s discomfiture. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/24/donald-trumps- stormy-daniels-case-heres-what-you-need-to-know
The federal inquiry is led by a special counsel, who is also probing the case of Mr Trump carting classified documents away to his Floridian Mar-a-Lago resort home. On 22 March, the federal appeals court passed an order. The ruling directed Mr Trump’s lawyer to give the prosecutors documents related to his client’s legal work. Plus, it summoned the lawyer to appear before a grand jury for answering questions.
Trapped in a Criminal Quagmire
The summoning and the haste say a lot. They reflect the prosecutors’ urge to gather enough evidence to nail Mr Trump, and prove conclusively that he did commit a crime. The prosecutors seem to be confident of establishing the ingrained criminal motive in Mr Trump’s efforts to foil State’s attempts to recover the smuggled-out documents. The fact that these documents were smuggled out when Mr Trump left the White House makes the crime more serious. https://abcnews.go.com/US/sources-special-counsel-claims-trump-deliberately-misled- attorneys/story?id=98024191
Not surprising that Mr Trump is trapped in a criminal quagmire. Causing him a legal headache, the special counsel is also carrying on with his parallel investigation into Mr Trump’s misguided manoeuvres to reverse the 2020 presidential poll outcome. This probe will cover his 2020 poll defeat, his rantings post-results and the unsavoury events thereafter, culminating in the Capitol Hill insurrection by his Republican cronies on January 6, 2021.
Promising More Probe Pains
Sure, the special counsel has his hands full. The Manhattan District Attorney too has been relentless in his inquiries. A sign of bad times that in January this year the District Attorney Alvin Bragg had empanelled a grand jury. Mr Bragg’s motives seem honourable. Rightly, the grand jury is mandated to hear evidence in the marathon criminal inquiry Mr Trump is facing today. Since January, the inquiry has seen many testifying in the witness box.
To date, in this criminal inquiry, the prosecutors have interrogated at least nine witnesses. Yet, the prosecutors are far from completing their presentations of evidence. This means the Manhattan (New York) investigation will go on, perhaps even beyond March, thus inflicting more probe pains for Mr Trump. This inquiry is a significant case for American democracy. More so because Mr Trump is quite likely to be indicted. https://www.npr.org/2023/03/24/1165766335/besides-the- manhattan-das-probe-trump-faces-federal-investigations
Indication of an Indictment
As Mr Trump wallows in a slush of probes, the infamous Manhattan criminal case is taking a dangerous turn for him. Mr Trump’s lawyers have been already told about the heightened possibility of Mr Trump facing criminal charges here. The hint of this happening came in the form of an offer. Mr Trump was offered the opportunity to testify before the grand jury. This is the jury that has been hearing evidences in this case. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/10/trump-offered- chance-to-testify-to-new-york-grand-jury-reports
Any which way, the offer is an indication of an indictment. Usually, prosecutors do not notify a probable defendant without asking the jury to frame charges against him. In New York too, probable defendants enjoy the right to answer questions before the grand jury pre-indictment. In the process, they do not testify. Thus, Mr Trump will decline the offer and the district attorney’s office may not always breathe fire.
Arrival Changes the Setting
At one point, the district attorney’s probe into Mr Trump’s actions did hit a wall. Cyrus Vance Jr, the then district attorney, had begun to produce before the grand jury proof of Mr Trump’s questionable business practices and how he had resorted to wanton inflation of loanable values of his real estate holdings. Though Mr Bragg’s arrival changed the setting, the district attorney was wracked by worries, at one point, over the case’s strength. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-24/new- york-is-probing-whether-trump-improperly-inflated-assets
Driven to despair, the district attorney had nearly decided to give up the grand jury presentation for good and was responsible for the quitting of two senior lead prosecutors. However, soon after, Mr Bragg’s prosecutors bounced back into the hush-money case. Visibly resuscitated, they were keen on reviving the investigations. With the hopes of a new life, the district attorney is going a step ahead now.
Hush-Money Hurtles Past
The district attorney’s office is now examining how Mr Trump had assessed the value of his assets. Despite, Mr Trump branding Mr Bragg as a racist and his investigation as a witch hunt, the district attorney’s office is marching ahead. Frustrated, Mr Trump has issued a rallying call to his cronies to stage a Capitol Hill-like insurrection again. If this happens, it is sure to finish, once for all, Mr Trump’s political career.
Mr Trump’s hush-money case is another front where files are moving fast. Again, Mr Bragg is hearing this case. After Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael D Cohen had a meeting with the prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office, things have begun looking brighter. Additional interviews are happening and Mr Cohen has already testified before the grand jury. These events bode well for the case, ill for Mr Trump. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/22/nyregion/michael- cohen-donald-trump-indictment.html
Securing Conviction for Multiple Felonies
Undoubtedly, progress in the hush-money case is heartening, ever since Mr Bragg empanelled the grand jury in January. Since then, the jury has heard many crucial testifiers: Mr Cohen, two brokering former National Enquirer executives, two senior campaign officials of Mr Trump and two employees of the Trump Organization, among them. Towards the end of 2022, Mr Bragg’s prosecutors had won a conviction of the Trump Organization.
This conviction was secured for multiple felonies linked to Mr Trump’s tax-fraud scheme. In the criminal investigation into his handling of sensitive State documents post-presidency, Mr Trump had been trying to prevent the federal government’s efforts to regain the classified documents from him. Despite this, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could still close in. Thanks to a court-okayed search warrant, issued under the Espionage Act in August, the FBI could raid Mr Trump’s Floridian Mar-a-Lago club-residence. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/13/trump-organization-to-be-sentenced-for-criminal-tax-fraud-and- conspiracy.html
Causing More Heartburns
Right there, the FBI did hit a gold mine. The Bureau found nearly 100 documents, all marked ‘classified’. Willy-nilly, Mr Trump will come under the scanner for obstructing, concealing classified documents in his residential premises and trying to frustrate attempts of the State to retrieve them. Plus, the FBI seems to have got enough evidence to prove Mr Trump’s agents made false declarations, claiming all sensitive documents had been returned. The FBI is on a strong wicket now.
However, the State is still trying to figure out the exact nature of the crime committed here, in the classified-documents case, by Mr Trump and his accomplices. As if this is not enough, the New York State Civil Inquiry too is causing heartburns for Mr Trump. In a September lawsuit, Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, accused Mr Trump of lying to his lenders and insurers. The Ms James lawsuit outlines in detail how Mr Trump overvalued his assets by several billions of dollars fraudulently, with a clear criminal motive to mislead. https://www.nytimes.com/article/trump-ny-civil- investigation.html
The Two Winnable Options
Not contented, Ms James is seeking to bar the Trumps, including his daughter and two sons, from operating any trade or business in New York. She is pleading for an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s annual financial statements and valuation of its assets. Only a few months ago, a New York judge had refused to dismiss Ms James’ suit. Encouraged, Ms James should be now feeling confident of making Mr Trump face trial. https://www.nytimes.com/news- event/trump-attorney-general-ny-inquiry
However, Ms James’ case is a civil suit. Thus, criminal charges cannot be filed in this suit. Yet, swift progress in this case is a major cause for Mr Trump’s worry. More so, as Ms James has two winnable options before her. One, opt for settlement negotiations. Two, go for trial. If Ms James chooses the second option, high financial penalties are sure to land on Mr Trump, frustrating his business plans in New York.
Findings Under Wraps Now
Like rapidly gathering dark clouds, the Georgia criminal case too is fast approaching to hover ominously over Mr Trump. The special grand jury has already finished its criminal investigation on whether Mr Trump and his accomplices have interfered with the 2020 presidential election. Though the findings are under wraps now, indications are that indictments have been recommended against as many as twelve of them. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/17/trump- report-georgia-crimes-charges-grand-jury-investigation-explained
It is highly probable that Mr Trump is one among them. Meanwhile, decisions are being finalised on the charges that should be brought before a regular grand jury. The final decision is likely to be in May this year and it will be woven around 20 named targets. Two personalities are expected to be prominent among them: Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and a major leader of the Georgia Republican Party.
The Georgia case is simple: Mr Trump is said to have tried to influence Georgia officials immediately after his presidential election. Despite Mr Trump dubbing the Georgia proceedings as ‘a clown show’, the jury is known to be in favour of rejecting Mr Trump’s claims of rampant fraud in Georgia. In the midst of this flurry of cases, the criminal crown goes to the proceedings against Mr Trump for his 6 January Capitol Hill insurrection.
Widely publicised, the insurrection investigations are led by a House Committee. The House Panel did finalise its 845-page report in December 2022. The panel’s inferences proved to be hammer blows to Mr Trump. The House Committee’s report did conclude that Mr Trump and his associates were responsible for the Capitol Hill insurrection. Finally, the House Panel referred Mr Trump to the Justice Department for further prosecution. Dismal days are ahead for Mr Trump. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/dec/24/january- 6-report-review-845-pages-crimes-trump
On balance, a much-indicted Trump portends misery for American politics. Prosecuted, Mr Trump is sure to incite his Republican associates and cronies to a Capitol Hill-like insurrection again. He has already hinted on Truth Social about such a disaster. The habitual presidential offender may soon acquire the rare distinction of becoming the first-ever American president to be jailed. Already, he is the only president to be impeached many times over. Soon, he will be the only president to be indicted multiple times. America would do well to remember not to let such dubious distinctions trump democratic values.