Will Donald Trump go to prison?

Donald Trump has now added a third criminal case to his list of ever-growing legal troubles – this time for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the subsequent January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The former president was indicted by a grand jury in Washington DC on 1 August on four charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy against rights and obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceeding.

The indictment came after an investigation from Special Counsel Jack Smith, whose office is also leading the criminal investigation into Mr Trump’s handling of classified documents on leaving the White House.

Mr Trump surrendered to authorities in Washington DC on 3 August to be arrested before appearing for his arraignment.

In the courtroom, Mr Trump and his nemesis Mr Smith stared each other down as the former president pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A statement from Mr Trump’s campaign called the latest indictment “disgraceful” and “political targeting”.

“The lawlessness of these persecutions of President Trump and his supporters is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes.

“President Trump has always followed the law and the Constitution with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys,” the statement from Mr Trump’s campaign read.

What charges is he facing?

The indictment in the 2020 election interference case charges Mr Trump with four counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy against rights and obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceeding.

This is the second set of federal charges filed against Mr Trump and the third indictment he’s received this year thus far, adding to the legal pressure against him as he seeks to win the Republican Party’s nomination in the primary next year.

It is also the first criminal case over his alleged actions while he was running the country.

Former President Donald Trump walks over to speak with reporters before he boards his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington Airport after his arraignment

The first federal indictment against the ex-president occurred on 8 June, when a grand jury in Mr Smith’s investigation charged Mr Trump and his co-defendant Walt Nauta on 37 counts related to Mr Trump’s alleged unlawful retention of national defence information and obstruction of justice.

Those charges stem from a case that began early last year after National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) officials discovered more than 100 classified documents in boxes that were retrieved from Mr Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida residence.

This came after his first criminal indictment in March on state charges in New York.

In that case, he appeared in a Manhattan courtroom to face criminal charges following Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into hush payments leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

After the first two arraignments, he returned to his properties to deliver remarks to crowds of supporters to cast himself as a victim of political persecution, baselessly accusing his political rivals of interfering with his chances of winning election to the presidency in 2024.

In all three cases, Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty.

In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, stacks of boxes can be observed in the White and Gold Ballroom of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida

But these cases are not necessarily his last, as prosecutors in Georgia also appear to be on the cusp of bringing charges.

A years-long investigation in Atlanta has been probing his attempts to reject the results of that election in the state of Georgia. That Georgia grand jury probe is also expected to result in charges against the ex-president and others in his orbit sometime in August or early September.

So will he go to jail?

With his growing list of criminal cases, speculation is mounting as to whether Mr Trump will face jail time.

If convicted, federal and state prosecutors and judges could have to decide whether to jail a presidential candidate – or even the potential victor in the 2024 race.

Following the first federal indictment, experts said that the Justice Department was likely to attempt to have Mr Trump incarcerated if he’s convicted.

Each charge in that case – the classified documents case – carries a maximum sentence ranging from five years to 20 years. A potential sentence, if convicted, could include decades in prison.

National security lawyer and George Washington University law professor Kel McClanahan said that the department will probably “want to go for incarceration” in the case of Mr Trump, according to Insider.

Mr McClanahan said that the evidence in the indictment is intended to show that Mr Trump “is a kingpin who knowingly broke the law, endangered national security, endangered nuclear weapon security, [and] endangered other countries’ national security”.

Former US President Donald Trump waves from his vehicle following his appearance at Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse, in Miami, Florida, on June 13, 2023

The consensus among most legal experts commenting on the indictment appears to be that Mr Trump is in serious legal jeopardy.

A former assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, Sarah Krissoff, said that “to the extent that there’s a conviction here, the Department of Justice is going to want to be seeking a real sentence” because of the “nature of the conduct, how long it lasted, his involvement, the involvement of other people, working allegedly at Trump’s direction”.

She noted that if Mr Trump is convicted, the sentence would depend on the judge, which seems likely to be Trump-appointee Aileen Cannon in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump could be looking at a maximum of five to 20 years of prison time if he is convicted in the January 6 charges.

He has pleaded not guilty in all three cases. Mr Trump’s next hearing in the January 6 probe will be the 28 August.


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