On March 30, a Manhattan grand jury took the unprecedented step of indicting Donald Trump for 30 counts of business fraud stemming from a widely publicized hush money payment scandal in 2016. That involves Trump aide Michael Cohen paying $130,000 to actress Stormy Daniels to prevent her from divulging potentially damaging information about her relationship with Trump.
Here’s a rundown.
As per the Constitution of New York, indictments are issued when a grand jury finds sufficient evidence that a crime was committed. After this is done, the purported offender (here, Trump) would be notified of the crime and required to surrender to police as soon as possible. Then, he would be given a full jury trial, and if found guilty, prison is a possibility.
What’s important to note, however, is that simply being convicted doesn’t disqualify Trump from the presidency. According to Richard Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA, “There is no constitutional bar on a felon running for office.” Instead, the only way that Trump wouldn’t be able to run is if he were imprisoned.
Given the immensely politicized nature of the case, jury deliberation will be undertaken slowly and carefully to ensure Trump a fair trial. With Trump and his allies claiming political persecution and massive public unrest predicted in New York, the political implications of the trial are not lost on DA (who will prosecute Trump), the jury, and the judge.
As it doesn’t appear that Trump is going down without a fight (he’s already blasted the trial as a “witch-hunt” and promised his supporters that he would run in spite of the indictment), it appears that a long, protracted legal battle is imminent. As Trump is the first former President to be indicted for any crime, the jury’s decision will set lasting precedent.
We’re in uncharted territory now, and there’s no telling what’ll happen next. All we can do is wait for this next phase in the showdown between Trump and everyone else.