Among the many issues that have followed the most scandalous president in American history Donald Trump, from tax records, to suspicion of “Russian interference” in the elections, to conflicts of interest in the “Ukraine Gate” case, to questioning the integrity of the elections and trying to circumvent them in some states , up to the charge of coup against the regime in the case of storming the Congress; A pornographic actress, whom Trump knew years before his presidency, may be the first to put him in prison, and in the black pages of American history as the first president ever to be formally charged.
At a sensitive stage of Trump’s presidential campaign, specifically in 2016, negotiations were underway behind the scenes to silence two of those with whom the American billionaire had intimate relationships: model Karen McDougal and porn actress Stephanie Clifford, known by her pseudonym Stormy Daniels.
In August, The National Enquirer, owned by a Trump ally, paid McDougall $150,000 in a ploy known as a “catch and kill.” Meanwhile, Daniels was also trying to capitalize on the fling she had with Trump in 2006, about a year after he tied the knot with his current wife, Melania; The newspaper helped her contact Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, late in the 2016 presidential campaign, getting $130,000 in exchange for silence.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to reveal the secret contract in January 2018. Cohen and Trump denied the information in the report, a position the former president has repeated repeatedly.
How did you officially find out?
Cohen, already embroiled in the investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, has found himself under steadily increasing pressure. He ultimately chose to cooperate with prosecutors and pleaded guilty in August 2018 in Manhattan federal court to tax and bank fraud, as well as to charges of violating federal campaign finance laws.
A federal indictment accused Cohen of making payments to Daniels to buy her silence in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. The Trump-Cohen Organization then made payments to Daniels, which prosecutors said amounted to an undisclosed campaign gift to Trump, in violation of election finance laws.
In December 2018, Cohen, who turned completely against Trump and said he was acting on his orders, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Where did the legal violation occur?
There is no legal violation in the “payment for silence” per se, according to what was reported by “AFP” from Columbia University law professor John Coffey, but what is illegal, according to the latter, is the falsification of the company’s commercial documents; The Trump Organization is considered a corporation, and has stated the payments to Cohen as mere reimbursements for his legal fees; Which is considered fraud.
Could Trump be imprisoned?
Coffey, who specializes in criminal justice and white-collar crime, adds that if paying Daniels was the only charge against Trump, it would be classified as a misdemeanor. But if prosecutors can convince a jury that the forgery was done to conceal another crime, such as an unauthorized campaign contribution, that could amount to a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
But, Coffey notes, this argument will not necessarily be easy in court.
What argument can Trump’s defense resort to?
The main narrative advanced by Trump’s lawyers in this case is that he is a victim of “blackmail” by Daniels. In addition, his lawyers will seek to attack the credibility of Cohen, the prosecution’s main witness, on the grounds that he had previously lied to Congress about a real estate deal in Moscow that Trump’s company was pursuing in 2016.
Does this mean the end of Trump’s presidential campaign?
Coffey says the conviction in the Daniels case will not prevent Trump from continuing his campaign to return to the White House, but it could be politically harmful.
He adds that Trump’s lawyers are sure that they will do everything in their power to delay the trial as long as possible, while his rivals for the Republican nomination would certainly like it to take place as soon as possible.
(AFP, The New Arab)
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