The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Trump’s trials explained: A run-down of the state and federal cases

Angela Weiss, AP
Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Former President Donald Trump is facing 88 felony counts in four different trials as his likely rematch with President Biden in the November election approaches.

Trump faces state indictments in New York and Georgia and federal indictments in Washington, D.C., and Florida.

Trump is the first ex-president to face criminal charges.

Gregory Mark, a law professor at DePaul, said the actions of Trump’s administration were “very unusual.”

“One of the great virtues of American politics is that whatever administration comes in doesn’t immediately indict … and prosecute everybody in the prior administration,” Mark said.

Trying to keep up with Trump’s legal battles and packed court schedule can be confusing. Here are some highlights of his four criminal court cases.

Manhattan: Hush money trial

In March 2023, Trump was indicted for allegedly obscuring reimbursements to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer.

Cohen allegedly paid $130,000 in 2016 to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, more widely known as Stormy Daniels. The hush money was paid in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

Cohen allegedly was reimbursed by Trump in payments that were portrayed as legal expenses.

The trial began April 15, 2024, at the Supreme Court of the State of New York and is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Key witnesses include Stormy Daniels, who testified May 7 and May 9, and Michael Cohen whose testimony began last week.

Fulton County, Georgia: Election interference

Trump and 18 others were indicted in August 2023 in Fulton County, Georgia, for violating 16 Georgia statutes, including violations of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO.

They have been accused of trying to steal the 2020 election in a phone call where Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that he wanted to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”

Lead prosecutor, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis proposed a trial date in August 2024, but an official date has not been set.

Additionally, the trial was delayed after Willis confirmed a romantic relationship she had with Nathan Wade, the lawyer she initially appointed to lead the prosecution of Trump. 

Federal Indictment: 2020 election interference

In 2023, Trump was charged with four felonies accusing him of interfering with the transfer of power after losing the 2020 election.

The indictment also accuses Trump of spreading lies that there was “fraud in the election.” These comments, federal prosecutors claim, led to the attacks on the Capitol  Jan. 6, 2021.

The initial trial date was March 4, 2024. However, the date was postponed while Trump appealed a claim of “presidential immunity” to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump claims he should have absolute immunity from any criminal prosecution for any alleged acts during his presidency. 

Federal Indictment: Mar-a-Lago documents

A special council in the U.S. Justice Department charged Trump with 37 felonies in June 2023 after he allegedly removed documents from the White House after he left office.

According to the indictment, he stored the documents “in various locations” at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump also was accused of concealing the documents and refusing to return them.

Judge Aileen Cannon announced that the trial will be postponed due to preliminary issues concerning pre-trial motions and classified issues. 

So what?

If Trump is reelected, he will have the ability to appoint an attorney general who is willing to drop federal charges against him, according to Forbes.

However, he will not have the power to stop the state charges from proceeding.

Hans Anderson, Minnesota assistant attorney general, said he believes Trump still has strong voter support throughout the trials.

“I don’t think there’s anything that he could do in a negative way, such as being convicted of a crime, that would change (his supporters’) willingness to vote for him,” said Anderson, who noted that his viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of the Minnesota attorney general.

Benjamin Epstein, a political science professor at DePaul, also believes it is likely that Trump, if re-elected, will go after those who have brought charges against him.

“I think that there would be at least more of a push on both parties to use these levers to try to keep people in line,” Epstein said. “Trump, like so many other things, shattered not just the way that it had been, but sort of norms around what is acceptable.”

Trump will have no power to pardon anyone or stop proceedings until he is inaugurated.

Mark, the DePaul law professor, said the courts could stay the proceedings through the election and inauguration.

“They might act as if nothing is going on and for the purposes of creating a factual record (and) continue right up until the moment the pardon takes place,” Mark said. “But a pardon can take place at any point.”

Trump is currently halfway through the expected timeline for the Manhattan “hush money” case, which Epstein said will be the only trial to happen before the November election.

Either way, Anderson said he thinks the judges in both the state and federal cases will do the best they can to come to the right decision, if the cases proceed.

“I have full faith in judges and justices at all levels of our system to do what is right … without letting partisan politics influence their decisions in any way,” Anderson said.

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