15 votes

Donald Trump hush money trial: What criminal charges does he face?

18 comments

  1. [2]
    BeanBurrito
    Link
    This article is slightly old, but it explains what Trump's current trial is about, which the headlines are obscuring. Paying someone not to talk about something isn't illegal. NDAs (Non-Disclosure...

    This article is slightly old, but it explains what Trump's current trial is about, which the headlines are obscuring.

    Paying someone not to talk about something isn't illegal. NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) are all over the place.

    To cut to the chase:

    Felony falsification of business records carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. However, others convicted of that offense alone have been sentenced to less than one year.

    Trump is being charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. He did to cover up a $130K USD payment he made to Stormy Daniels through his lawyer Michael Cohen. This happened in 2016 and the sexual encounter was in 2006.

    Prosecutors claim Trump disguised his 2017 reimbursement checks to Cohen as retainer fees for legal services in the records maintained by his New York-based family real estate company, the Trump Organization.

    ...

    Each of the 34 counts stem from a check, ledger entry or invoice from Trump's reimbursement to Cohen.

    ...

    It is against New York state law to make a false entry, opens new tab in a company's records. While falsification of business records on its own is a misdemeanor, it is considered a felony punishable by up to four years in prison if it is done to conceal or further other crimes.

    ...

    In this case, Bragg said those other crimes include alleged election law violations and tax law violations. Federal law in 2016 capped individual contributions to campaigns at $2,700, and New York state law makes it a misdemeanor to conspire to promote a candidacy by "unlawful means."
    Bragg said Trump's 11 checks to Cohen in 2017 totaled $420,000.

    ...

    Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges of causing an unlawful campaign contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution tied to the hush money scheme. The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan has not charged Trump, who it referred to in its charging document against Cohen as "Individual-1," with any crime.

    8 votes
    1. psi
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I'd like to emphasize that last paragraph. Of the three people involved in the unlawful hush money payments, Michael Cohen, David Pecker (head of the National Enquirer), and Donald Trump, Michael...

      I'd like to emphasize that last paragraph. Of the three people involved in the unlawful hush money payments, Michael Cohen, David Pecker (head of the National Enquirer), and Donald Trump,

      1. Michael Cohen plead guilty to campaign finance violations for precisely these hush money payments, and

      2. David Pecker entered into a non-prosecution agreement for the same underlying crimes.

      The only person who didn't face any consequences was Trump, despite being the beneficiary of the scheme. So I don't see this as unjust political persecution; on the contrary, it feels unjust that he managed to avoid facing any charges for so long when the evidence was so public, brazen, and unambiguous.

      10 votes
  2. [16]
    Eji1700
    Link
    I’m well aware of why trump is being charged here and still hold it’s absurd reaching to classify these as felony charges to get around the statute of limitations, and giving trump more and more...

    I’m well aware of why trump is being charged here and still hold it’s absurd reaching to classify these as felony charges to get around the statute of limitations, and giving trump more and more ammo on the “see they are just out to get me” line.

    While I wondered if the judge would throw the case out or just let it go and side with trump, giving him a huge win, the irony has been that since trump is incapable of just shutting the hell up, he’s probably tanking a sure thing

    8 votes
    1. [6]
      bkimmel
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      If you're going to run around for years and basically build a political career out of screaming "everything is corrupt and fixed" you can't be surprised when the justice system you are undermining...

      If you're going to run around for years and basically build a political career out of screaming "everything is corrupt and fixed" you can't be surprised when the justice system you are undermining does it's due diligence and checks your receipts at the door. Trump created the need for his own prosecution(s) - simple as. The justice system doesn't work if it only applies to the poor bastards at the bottom of the heap. It's America - you're free to shout "look at me! I'm above the law!" if you want to but you can't act shocked or characterize it as "reaching" if that system of justice makes it clear that you are, in fact, not. Even if they profess to hate it, making it clear to the seething masses that laws work and matter is a thing that it's important to get correct for posterity if nothing else.

      I'll mention specifically that I used to work in federal campaign finance. People don't get prosecuted as much as they should, but that's not because the laws aren't clear: they are quite lucid. People usually just don't get caught red-handed like Trump was here.

      13 votes
      1. [5]
        Eji1700
        Link Parent
        And i'm perfectly fine with just about every other case against him because they didn't need to find arcane and concerning interpretations of the law to do them. Again, in any reasonable scenario...

        And i'm perfectly fine with just about every other case against him because they didn't need to find arcane and concerning interpretations of the law to do them.

        Again, in any reasonable scenario the correct action was "well he did this, it was probably illegal, but the statue of limitations is up, so there's nothing we can do. Best look elsewhere, and i'm sure we'll find something more sound"

        So yes, the laws should apply to EVERYONE as written. The last thing I want to ever see is a prosecutor trying to get creative. To be clear, from the article itself:

        According to prosecutors, Trump disguised his 2017 reimbursement checks to Cohen for the Daniels payment as retainer fees for legal services in records maintained by his New York-based family real estate company, the Trump Organization.
        Each of the 34 counts stem from a check, ledger entry or invoice from Trump's reimbursement to Cohen.
        It is against New York state law to make a false entry in a company's records. While falsification of business records on its own is a misdemeanor, ...

        This is the first part, and the part that bugs the hell out of me from this article. It's not just "a misdemeanor" it's literally beyond the statue of limiations if it is, and thus not something you should be able to charge anyone with. So then we get to the next part.

        ... it is considered a felony punishable by up to four years in prison if it is done to conceal or further other crimes.
        In this case, Bragg said those other crimes include alleged election law violations and tax law violations. Federal law in 2016 capped individual contributions to campaigns at $2,700, and New York state law makes it a misdemeanor to conspire to promote a candidacy by "unlawful means."

        So to be clear, they're saying his hush money payment to stormy was recorded incorrectly on the books, but that it's a felony because it counts as a campaign contribution. The doors this opens are absurd, and the logic needed to actually arrive at this conclusion is disturbing.

        There are plenty of cases with Trump where you can look at the facts and say "yeah if he'd just shut the hell up we'd probably never have known but he called it out and now we can charge him". As an example, literally every other case.

        This one is very literally not liking what you find and trying to bend the law until you get the result you want. It is always disgusting when prosecutors do this, and especially so when doing so is probably doing trump a favor.

        2 votes
        1. [4]
          bkimmel
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          As someone who spent a significant portion of my working life to make sure the campaigns I worked for didn't violate those election laws, let me tell you they are: 1. Clear and 2. Important....

          As someone who spent a significant portion of my working life to make sure the campaigns I worked for didn't violate those election laws, let me tell you they are: 1. Clear and 2. Important.

          Because if they weren't, the whole basis of MAGA/Trumpism would be essentially correct: the system (being inherently Democratic) is rigged. It's not. You can't spend money to influence elections ("Electioneering" in FEC parlance). and not disclose that to the FEC. Period.

          Trump did. Period.

          There is very little "creative reading" there, as far as I see it: Violating FEC law is a felony (and one of the most important ones to enforce in my opinion).

          A while ago, there was a topic on Tildes that was like "what's something you know from your line of work that you wish everyone knew" and I almost wrote how I wish everyone knew how "most campaigns" followed finance laws and how strict they are (for good reason).

          The real danger is allowing people to go "whoops my oil company spent 300,000 to help this candidate won his election. Oh golly gosh darn, my bad. I didn't know what I was doing." Which is basically what we'd be saying is OK if we declined to prosecute this. I disagree with the notion that this is absurd.

          Edit: and it's even more absurd after Citizens United . Your oil company can spend 3 million if it wants to! It just has to tell the FEC it did that.

          16 votes
          1. [3]
            Eji1700
            Link Parent
            I'm well aware of campaign finance law through personal experience as well, and of the severity of it. I do not see how Trump paying hush money and documenting it by lying is in any way a campaign...

            I'm well aware of campaign finance law through personal experience as well, and of the severity of it.

            I do not see how Trump paying hush money and documenting it by lying is in any way a campaign finance violation, especially when it just so happens to be the key argument to even prosecute on this.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              bkimmel
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              From https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/making-disbursements/operating-expenditures-candidate/ In a nutshell, that's why it's a violation. I actually believe of all the trials...

              From https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/making-disbursements/operating-expenditures-candidate/

              If a candidate uses his or her personal funds to make expenditures on behalf of the committee without intending to be reimbursed, this constitutes an in-kind contribution from the candidate to the committee. In addition, out-of-pocket spending by candidates, as agents of their authorized committees, requires reporting the original vendor’s information as a disbursement when that vendor exceeds $200 for the election cycle.

              In a nutshell, that's why it's a violation.

              I actually believe of all the trials Trump is facing, this one is the most clear. Inciting insurrection is certainly more serious but honestly I feel like that's where it gets a little fuzzy with political speech and potentially creates a cudgel out of precedent that could easily be used against someone advocating in front of a crowd for something like abortion rights.

              6 votes
              1. Eji1700
                Link Parent
                All I can say is that I think that is an extremely generous interpretation and I feel this opens the door to all sorts of nonsense. There's 0 doubt trump is scum and that this payment was all...

                All I can say is that I think that is an extremely generous interpretation and I feel this opens the door to all sorts of nonsense.

                There's 0 doubt trump is scum and that this payment was all sorts of not right. The part i'm arguing is that if this can be connected to campaign finance, so can just about every other personal payment. If they have a sordid affair with someone and wind up getting them pregnant, and give them money to help support the child, is that a finance violation if not reported? How far does this logic extend?

                The whole point of the quoted part is that it's about making expenditures on behalf of the committee, and I don't agree that's what is going on here, or at least that it is far from black and white.

                1 vote
    2. [9]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      It’s a weird situation. Honestly, I think politically this trial is a huge mistake. It’s nothing but a boon for Trump. You’re just helping him be elected. That being said, the justice system...

      It’s a weird situation. Honestly, I think politically this trial is a huge mistake. It’s nothing but a boon for Trump. You’re just helping him be elected.

      That being said, the justice system shouldn’t be about politics. So I suppose if the prosecutor really thinks this is justified, it is what it is.

      6 votes
      1. [8]
        Eji1700
        Link Parent
        I feel it's odd on a bunch of angles. I agree the justice system shouldn't be about politics, but I feel like politics is the ONLY reason this is being prosecuted. The hoops they've jumped through...

        I feel it's odd on a bunch of angles.

        I agree the justice system shouldn't be about politics, but I feel like politics is the ONLY reason this is being prosecuted. The hoops they've jumped through to argue that this is campaign finance violations, so they can extend the expired statue of limitations, is gross, and I feel like in a non politically charged environment there's a very good chance the judge would just throw it out.

        However of course, it's also by necessity politically charged from the angle of how trump is treated. Due to him running for president there are legit concerns about things like contempt of court, which ANYONE ELSE, would've been slapped with so hard at this point it wouldn't be funny. They have to have a bullet proof case on any behavior to make sure there's no opportunity to appeal the decision.

        So trump is, of course, acting like a lunatic and the court is functionally allowing it. I'm not sure what the legal standard is for "well the prosecution has no case but the defense is so out of line it's absurd", and so the whole thing feels like yet another circus.

        4 votes
        1. [7]
          asparagus_p
          Link Parent
          I'm not American or a lawyer, but from where I'm standing, it just seems crazy that this guy can still run for president. I mean, he's for sure committed crimes, right? But what's even crazier is...

          I'm not American or a lawyer, but from where I'm standing, it just seems crazy that this guy can still run for president. I mean, he's for sure committed crimes, right? But what's even crazier is that enough people think he's presidential material, especially among the so-called Christian right. This guy seems so far from being the godly, upstanding, caring citizen that you would think religious people want. Even if you think there's a witch hunt out to get him, there's evidence out there that he's an adulterer and misogynist. He doesn't even deny half of that.

          It's hard not to think that this kind of trial is being used politically to show what a piece of crap he is, even if he isn't actually convicted. But it probably won't work because he's a cult leader. I'm kind of watching with interest but I fear for the fallout of this trial.

          What I think is more important is that the Supreme Court rules that Presidents are not immune from prosecution.

          10 votes
          1. [5]
            stu2b50
            Link Parent
            Presidents can be criminals. We've had people run for president from jail who've gotten nontrivial vote shares. It's better for it. The "crazy" part is that half of the country would prefer him to...

            it just seems crazy that this guy can still run for president. I mean, he's for sure committed crimes, right?

            Presidents can be criminals. We've had people run for president from jail who've gotten nontrivial vote shares. It's better for it.

            The "crazy" part is that half of the country would prefer him to be president.

            8 votes
            1. [4]
              asparagus_p
              Link Parent
              Is it? Surely it depends on the crime. Are we all ok with rapists and pedos running for president? I wouldn't be. I believe some crimes are more forgivable and that most people should be given a...

              It's better for it.

              Is it? Surely it depends on the crime. Are we all ok with rapists and pedos running for president? I wouldn't be. I believe some crimes are more forgivable and that most people should be given a second chance. So, l wouldn't say all crimes should preclude you from running. But the trouble is, you can't just bank on the public weeding out the crazies. That's the troubling part - that a charismatic leader can charm their way into such a position despite their background. History has shown us where that leads.

              1 vote
              1. nosewings
                Link Parent
                The alternative is a system in which a president could frivolously prosecute their opponent in an attempt to prevent them from being able to run. Both options have their downsides.

                The alternative is a system in which a president could frivolously prosecute their opponent in an attempt to prevent them from being able to run. Both options have their downsides.

                8 votes
              2. [2]
                stu2b50
                Link Parent
                Yes, I'm okay with alleged rapists and pedos running for President. Neither courts nor elections are run by omniscient gods. Being guilty of a crime only indicates that the preponderance of...

                Yes, I'm okay with alleged rapists and pedos running for President. Neither courts nor elections are run by omniscient gods. Being guilty of a crime only indicates that the preponderance of evidence was not on your side in your trial.

                We live in a democracy, and the voice of the people should trump all in the end.

                4 votes
                1. PelagiusSeptim
                  Link Parent
                  Legal nitpick: preponderance of evidence is the legal standard used in civil cases. Criminal cases generally have a higher standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt". Not that that's always rigidly...

                  Legal nitpick: preponderance of evidence is the legal standard used in civil cases. Criminal cases generally have a higher standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt". Not that that's always rigidly applied by juries, but that's the standard.

                  4 votes
          2. Eji1700
            Link Parent
            So I think most people have already covered the "he's for sure committed crimes" section, although I'll point out I don't think he's even been convicted of much, and i'm not even sure he's lost...

            So I think most people have already covered the "he's for sure committed crimes" section, although I'll point out I don't think he's even been convicted of much, and i'm not even sure he's lost anything but civil trials, at which point you might as well just not have anyone from a large business sector bother running (i mean...possibly a net positive but the concept is not so great).

            As for the Christian right, well a lot of them don't actually approve of him. Everyone has some twitter freak in mind when thinking about this and they for sure are real, and totally willing to bend over backwards to somehow make it all "ok", but at the end of the day, even a more sane one who just has a strong stance on abortion probably feels that their ONLY choice is the republicans, no matter who they run.

            It all devolves from there, and that's partly why Pence was his running mate (because nothing could signal more to the christian right), but at the same time, you've got groups like The Federalists of all things saying that Trump is out of line (no idea if they still feel that way, but it shows just how split everything is).

            . Even if you think there's a witch hunt out to get him, there's evidence out there that he's an adulterer and misogynist. He doesn't even deny half of that.

            Wellllp this would probably be an easier argument if a large portion of politics wasn't knowingly filled with trash like this. Bill sure as hell meets one of those and arguably two, but the dem's don't have any problem trotting him out whenever they need to get more support.

            It's hard not to think that this kind of trial is being used politically to show what a piece of crap he is, even if he isn't actually convicted. But it probably won't work because he's a cult leader. I'm kind of watching with interest but I fear for the fallout of this trial.

            It's a gross misuse of our justice system if that's the case. The idea that ANY DA can just go through all the activities of a possible presidential candidate to mire them in court cases is gross.

            Now don't get me wrong, Trump has PLENTY of legit court cases (basically every single other one against him that i'm aware of, although I believe one DA campaigned on prosecuting Trump, which is another sticky spot), but that's why I find this one so repugnant. It really felt like this was just some DA understanding that the serious charges would be coming for trump soon (documents/gerogia), and wanted to be "the first" to charge him and get their 15 minutes.

            It's bonus points for them that this means Trump once again makes an absolute fool of himself, but the levels they went to in order to make this a federal crime(which they need because if it's not federal the statute of limitations are LONG up) are disturbing.

            1 vote