The Trump indictments dam is breached

After weeks, even months, of speculation, the first indictment against Donald Trump was finally issued yesterday by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg. Since the indictment is under seal, we will not know the precise charges that have been leveled against Trump until his arraignment before a judge in Manhattan. The DA had wanted it to take place today (Friday) but Trump’s lawyers said that because of the need to arrange with the Secret Service protection detail, it should take place next week. It is expected to be on Tuesday. Here is what is likely to happen.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have indicated that he will co-operate with New York authorities, so there would be no warrant put out for his arrest.

Mr Trump has his own personal jet, so he could fly into one of several New York area airports and then make the journey to the lower Manhattan courthouse by car.

As part of those negotiations with prosecutors, the court may also agree to grant him a private entrance to the court, instead of the more typical “perp walk” in front of the assembled media.

Once inside, however, Mr Trump will be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken like all defendants in criminal cases. He will also be read his “Miranda” rights, reminding him of his constitutionally-protected right to a lawyer and to decline to talk to police.

Defendants charged with a felony are typically handcuffed temporarily, although Mr Trump’s lawyers will try to avoid that for their client. Throughout the booking process, he will be accompanied by Secret Service agents.

Mr Trump would then wait in a holding area or cell until his appearance before a judge. The arraignment – the moment where a defendant enters their plea before a judge – is open to the public.

Once the case is booked and a judge is selected, other details will fall into place, such as the timing of the trial and possible travel restrictions and bail requirements for the defendant.

A conviction on a misdemeanor would result in a fine. If Mr Trump were convicted on the felony charge, he would face a maximum sentence of four years in prison, although some legal experts predict a fine is more probable, and that any time behind bars is highly unlikely.

Trump had been quoted last week as saying that he looked forward to being arrested and walking with his hands handcuffed behind his back but I never gave that much credence, seeing it as sheer braggadocio, with him trying to put the best face upon events. It is not good to be booked and go through the process of being fingerprinted and having one’s mug shot taken, all while surrounded by hordes of media, protestors, counter-protestors, and gawkers. Trump loves to be in the media spotlight but even he has to realize that this is not a good look.

This particular case involves the payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair. That is not a crime in itself. What is illegal is that he had his then lawyer Michael Cohen pay her the money and then reimbursed him but lied and called the reimbursement a ‘legal fee’. If the payment should have been reported as an election campaign expenditure, that makes it even worse. This case is not going to be easy to win since proving intent is always difficult. A key witness against him is likely to be Cohen but since went to jail himself after pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign-finance violations, and also pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate, his credibility can be challenged.

There are other ongoing investigations and possible indictments, such as the Atlanta DA looking into his effort to overthrow that state’s election, the New York AG’s investigation into fraud by Trump and his family, the department of justice’s two investigations into his taking of classified documents and his role in the January 6th attempt to obstruct the business of government, and another hush money case involving an affair with Karen McDougal. And then there is the defamation case brought against him by E. Jean Carroll who has accused him of raping her. That last case was scheduled to go to trial in April but has been postponed.

This is bad news for those Republicans who see Trump as a political liability based on the poor performance of the party in 2018, 2020, and 2022, and expect him to lose again in 2024 and also drag the party down with him. They may have hoped that for whatever reason, Trump might drop out of the race. But there is nothing in the law that prevents an indicted or convicted person from running for president. A person can run even if they are in prison. I think that all these legal woes will only increase Trump’s determination to run for the presidency in the hope that if he wins, these cases may be suspended during his term of office. Of course, having to show up for depositions and court appearances will make campaigning complicated. Trump’s lawyers will throw up every possible delaying tactic so it will be surprising if any trial even begins before the November 2024 election date. You can be sure that Trump’s election campaign will be even more devoid of substance and consist of one long whine-fest about how everyone is being mean to him.

Republicans and right media are of course saying that this indictment is good news for Trump and will help him in the election. Of course, they always say that anything that happens, however bad it may look to any rational person, will be good for them. This is their standard media strategy. But I just cannot see anything but negative consequences from having to campaign while facing multiple charges that could result in prison time. Sure, his most devoted fans will stick with him and even increase the loudness of their support but the less fanatical ones who might have supported him may decide that they would prefer not to have to deal with his personal dramas and the constant whining and look to other candidates or even tune out the election. And the other candidates for the Republican nomination will face their own problems of what to do now. Campaigning requires attacking the other candidates, especially the front-runner. But attacking Trump when he is drowning in legal battles will be portrayed by Trump as them being part of the conspiracy against him and will likely infuriate the base of the party who might feel that it is the duty of all Republicans to rally round Trump.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    This case is not going to be easy to win since proving intent is always difficult.

    My impression has been that the DA would only move forward if he thought it was a slam-dunk.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … any time behind bars is highly unlikely.

    [Insert all the sad/angry emojis here!]

  3. Tethys says

    The indictment is reportedly 34 counts, which seems like a lot if it is merely indicting him for financial malfeasance in regards to using campaign funds to pay hush money.

    Jack Smith has tweeted that the indictment is “brilliant”, so I look forward to next weeks arraignment and the unsealing of the official charges. He sounded pretty confident that NY has built an excellent case.

  4. Tethys says

    Btw, intent doesn’t apply. Cohen has already been convicted and served his sentence so nobody can claim that tfg did not intend to commit multiple felonies by having Cohen pay off Stormy.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    The biggest difficulty with trying the tiny-handed tyrant will be jury selection. I would not trust anyone who has ever voted for him to judge him fairly, and I ‘m pretty sure the MAGA crowd would feel the same about anyone who voted against him. So you have to find 12 people who don’t have strong feelings about either of the last two presidential elections. Good luck with that.

  6. lanir says

    Well at least Cohen can stop calling Trump the unindicted co-conspirator.

    As far as the primary and attacking Trump goes, the other candidates face the prisoner’s dilemna. If they cooperate, or even any large number of them cooperate, they can jump him without any real consequences and successfully bury him. If they don’t, hope their book sales are worth it because he’s going to eat their lunch again and become the next republican nominee for president.

  7. lochaber says


    Yeah, this is what dampens my emotions.

    Isn’t there something close to a bit under a quarter of the population trump supporters? and if so, any random jury pool can reasonably expect to have ~2 out of 12 be trump supporters.

    And, we all know they aren’t exactly the most honest people, so I think it’s fair to assume a large amount of them would deny being a trump supporter during the jury selection process.

    And all it takes is one person to hang/nullify a jury.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he actually gets convicted of anything…

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