The case against Trump

The indictment against Donald Trump that was presented in court yesterday charged his with 34 counts, each of which consisted of “falsifying business records in the first degree” that were taken “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof, made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise”.

The indictment itself did not specify the evidence that was used to arrive at these charges but they consist at a minimum of the payment of $130,000 made to Stormy Daniels to prevent her speaking out in public about her affair. Note that it is not the payment itself that is illegal. One question is what was the intent of the payment. If it was meant to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, then that would be a violation of campaign finance law since it could be considered a campaign contribution that exceeds the allowed amounts.

The money did not come from Trump directly but was paid to Daniels by his lawyer Michael Cohen and then Trump repaid him in regular installments. The problem is that he called those payments to Cohen legal expenses, probably to enable Trump to claim the hush money payment as a business expense and lower his taxes. That is an offense. If Trump was not so addicted to cheating on his taxes and had simply paid Daniels in cash, this charge would not have arisen.

This report gives more information about the acts that led to these charges.

The charges stem from payments made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, as well to a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Trump, and a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed Trump fathered a child out of wedlock.

Separately, prosecutors say, the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media, arranged two “catch and kill” deals to squash stories that could damage Trump. One involved $30,000 to the former doorman. The tabloid reached a $150,000 agreement with McDougal, purchasing her story to keep it from going public.

So that is where things stand. The judge has set the next court date for December.

Outside the courthouse, it was, as expected, a circus that descended into farce, with the number of Trump supporters nowhere near what he might have hoped to see.

They had been more animated in the morning, although the center-piece of the protest – an appearance by Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-dabbling, hard-right Republican conspiracy theorist – had descended into farce almost immediately.

Some anti-Trumpers had infiltrated the Trump side, and launched a highly successful attempt to silence the Georgia congresswoman. Greene, escorted by security, was armed with a megaphone, but could be barely be heard above the sound of whistling and shouting. From about 10 yards away it was possible to make out the words “Alvin Bragg”, the name of the Manhattan district attorney who has brought the case against Trump, but the rest was just noise.

After about three minutes, Greene upped and left, a mere head bobbing up and down between tv cameras, microphones and cap-clad-heads. Journalists – there were hundreds outside the court, from around the world – chased her out, and the show was over.

In the crowd, Dion Ciri, a Trump supporter, was waving a large flag that said: “Trump or death.” He kept having to explain what the sign meant.

“It’s not my death,” he said. “It might be your death, it might be democracy’s death, but it’s not my death.”

Trump gave a speech atMar-a-Lago later in the evening that consisted of the usual rant. What was unusual was that it only lasted 25 minutes, short by his standards.


  1. Matt G says

    Apparently the whistles used to drown out Greene were provided by supporters of The Donald! This is a big hit over at the Leopards Ate My Face subreddit (people who end up being harmed by actions/policies they support/promote).

  2. birgerjohansson says

    It would be foolish to think USA will enter a time of safety if Trump ja convicted.

    During his presidency we have seen most Republicans have literally no line Trump could cross that would have them abandon ship on ethical grounds.
    They are opportunists or extremists every one, once the non-MAGA members of the party have been purged.

    We have seen them pursue a systematic effort for decades to subvert the political system by stacking courts and gerrymandering. Once the supreme court was turned, we have seen an unashamed move towards extremism. The Republicans are waging a low-intensity war on democracy but are stepping up their game now, knowing the supreme court has their backs.
    In any other country -- Hungary or Brazil- this would be called fascism.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    short by his standards

    The funniest thing I’ve seen today is the shirts Trump supporters are selling with a faked mugshot (because no mugshot was taken, sorry Donny) showing the defendant to be 6’5″. Trump, 6’5″! Ahahaha! Inadequate much? Even the people on his side seem to be taking the piss.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    (Aside: from now until December (at least) I think I’m going to take to referring to Trump exclusively as “the Defendant”. Who’s with me?)

  5. says

    Trump gave a speech atMar-a-Lago later in the evening that consisted of the usual rant.

    There has been some speculation as to why Trump wasn’t hit with a gag order. My favorite theory is “give him a whole roll of rope and he’ll hang himself.” Except, knowing Trump, he’ll use that rope to loop in thousands of useful idiots who he’ll also hang.

  6. says

    I think I’m going to take to referring to Trump exclusively as “the Defendant”. Who’s with me?

    “The defendant formerly known as ‘Trump'”

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the number of Trump supporters nowhere near what he might have hoped to see.

    It was the biggest crowd of protesters of a former-presidential indictment EVAH!*

    (*In the US, that is…)

  8. Alan G. Humphrey says

    @ 4 & 6
    Ms. Daniels has been calling the Donald (another appellation he dislikes) Tiny for quite a while, so I’m thinking we can combine all three, as in “Melania, wife of Tiny the Defendant (previously referred to as the Donald), has published her book *Reflections of Careless Recollections* today.”, or “The Tiny Defendant (aka the Donald) was observed breaking more clubs than usual after this week’s…”.

    Let’s hear some more ideas.

  9. Owlmirror says

    Ken White (Popehat) and Josh Barro have a podcast out with legal analysis of the known charges of the indictment. I haven’t listened to it yet (behind a paywall, and an hour long), but they give some hints that they think that things are not looking great for a conviction, or jail time even if convicted:

    The charges that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg have brought… well, they’re a real stretch. As Ken and I discuss at length in this episode, it won’t be hard to show that the Trump Organization made various false business records related to the hush payment to Stormy Daniels, or that Trump has personal knowledge of their falsity. What will be very difficult to show is that those false entries constitute felonies. In order to be felonies, the records have to have been made in furtherance of some other criminal offense or offenses — offenses that Bragg has not charged and that federal prosecutors have not chosen to charge either.

    The campaign finance angle on which Bragg appears prepared to hang his hat is not a solid one. The idea that the payment to Stormy Daniels was not just a campaign expense, but so obviously a campaign expense that Trump must have known he was breaking the law when he didn’t report it as a campaign expense — well, it’s just not plausible. Philanderers pay off their paramours for all sorts of reasons. The last time prosecutors tried a politician on this theory — John Edwards — they weren’t able to secure a conviction. It is simply not a well established area of campaign finance law.

    Still, even though this looks like a weak prosecution, it’s going to be a complicated and interesting one. On this week’s show, Ken and I take a long walk through the elements of the offenses that Bragg will need to prove — the easier ones and the very difficult ones. We talk about Bragg’s press conference, what information we learned from the indictment and related documents, and what information was conspicuously missing. We talk about Trump’s legal team — pretty well suited to this kind of trial, frankly — and we talk about one matter that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the press: Even if Trump is convicted on all charges, it’s pretty likely he won’t be sentenced to any jail time, given that he would be an elderly first offender convicted only of non-violent Class E felonies.

    A point that would support the payment not necessarily being for the campaign is that DJT is rather famously secretive and has used NDAs to enforce silence about himself for many years before running for president.

    A point that would oppose it is that the affair took place in 2006, but no hush payment took place until after the campaign took place.

  10. another stewart says

    Claiming the hush money payments as a business expense at least ought to be illegal, but what I understand for commentary elsewhere is that it’s only a misdemeanour, unless they get him on the campaign finance charges. On the other hand Cohen was convicted

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