Explainer: Donald Trump’s indictment troubles

Donald Trump, former US president and Republican party forerunner for the 2024 presidential election, has been indicted in three cases as of 2 August bringing risks of prison time.

He is also the first US president to ever face criminal charges.

The latest hit comes from US Special Counsel Jack Smith over his efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election. He was previously indicted in June 2023 for unlawfully keeping classified national security documents. He was indicted for the first time in March 2023 for allegedly falsifying business records in connection with a hush-money payment to a porn star.

Election tampering criminal probe

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating whether Trump and others tried illegally to overturn his defeat in that state’s 2020 presidential vote. A charging decision in the criminal case is expected by 1 September.

He is also being investigated for obstructing a congressional investigation into attacks on the US Capitol on 6 January, 2021

The investigation focuses in part on a 2 January, 2021, phone call Trump made to Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to “find” enough votes needed to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia.

Legal experts said Trump may have violated at least three Georgia criminal laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and intentional interference with performance of election duties.

Trump could argue that his discussions were free speech protected by the US Constitution.

Illegal retention of classified documents

Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court on 13 June in Miami to charges he unlawfully kept classified national security documents when he left office in 2021 and lied to officials who sought to recover them.

The trial is scheduled for 20 May, 2024.

Special counsel Jack Smith on Tuesday (1 August) brought additional charges against former President Donald Trump in the case alleging mishandling of classified documents

Smith accuses Trump of risking national secrets by taking thousands of sensitive papers with him when he left the White House in January 2021 and storing them in a haphazard manner at his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate and his New Jersey golf club, according to the indictment.

Photos included in the indictment show boxes of documents stored on a ballroom stage, in a bathroom and strewn across a storage-room floor.

Those records included information about the secretive US nuclear program and potential vulnerabilities in the event of an attack, the indictment said.

The charges from the office of Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith carry penalties of as much as 20 years in prison

Trump faces charges that include violations of the Espionage Act, which criminalises unauthorised possession of defence information, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

On Thursday, prosecutors unveiled a new indictment, which charges Trump, his co-defendant and valet Walt Nauta, and a third Trump employee, Carlos De Oliveira, with attempting to delete security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago after they were sent a grand jury subpoena for the videos in June 2022.

Prosecutors allege De Oliveira told another employee that “the boss” wanted a server containing security footage to be deleted.

New York ‘hush money’ criminal case

A New York grand jury indicted Trump for allegedly falsifying business records in connection with a hush-money payment to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors in Manhattan accuse Trump of trying to conceal a violation of election laws.

Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. He has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels but admitted to reimbursing Cohen for his payment to her.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 during Trump’s presidency.

Opinion polls show Republican support for Trump surging since the first of three indictments was issued in March. He is far and away the front-runner, leading second-place Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, by close to 30 percentage points.

“This will rally his supporters to his talking points – about how the establishment and the ‘deep state’ are against him and against them,” Stu Rothenberg, a non-partisan political analyst, said before the latest indictment was handed down.

Trump, the former president, has made the indictments a central plank of his campaign platform, portraying himself as the target of a biased justice system, the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.

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