Trump could face felony charges, no special treatment if indicted-expert
If former US President Donald Trump is, in fact arrested and indicted by New York prosecutors, as Trump predicted on social media on Saturday, he will legally be treated “just like anybody else” a legal analyst told Reuters.
Trump on Saturday said on the Truth Social site that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday as New York prosecutors consider charges over a hush money payment to a porn star, and called on his supporters to protest.
Trump cited “illegal leaks” from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, but provided no evidence and did not discuss the possible charges in his post.
Former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Danya Perry, said that by all indications, Trump has already been indicted, and that “the indictment is currently under seal.”
If he is, in fact, arrested, Perry said, he will face some, but not all, of the indignities of a normal defendant.
“Former President Trump is not going to be dragged in front of a scrum of reporters. There's not going to be a perp walk. He won't be put in handcuffs or shackles,” she said.
But, he will have to have to go through having his “mug shot taken, having to be processed through the system and having to be arraigned in front of a judge and having to enter a plea,” she added.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office has been investigating a $130,000 hush payment Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn actor Stormy Daniels, declined to comment.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations tied to his arranging payments to Daniels and another woman in exchange for their silence about affairs they said they'd had with Trump, among other crimes. He has said Trump directed him to make the payments. The US Attorney's office in Manhattan did not charge Trump with a crime.
Sources have said Bragg's office has been presenting evidence to a grand jury about the payment, which came in the waning days of Trump's 2016 campaign in exchange for Daniels' silence about an affair she said she had with Trump a decade earlier.
Danya Perry, a partner at Perry Guha LLP, said that if the “rampant speculation” about the indictment is correct, Trump could be looking at several misdemeanours and even felony charges.
While a first-time offender often does not get jail time for a low-level felony, Perry said, there are sometimes exceptions, particularly if the case goes to trial. The maximum sentence for a “class E felony”, she said, is four years.
Trump has denied the affair with Stormy Daniels happened and called the investigation by Bragg, a Democrat, a witch hunt.
The probe comes as Trump seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024.
No US president - while in office or afterwards - has faced criminal charges. Trump has said he will continue campaigning even if he is charged with a crime.
“These investigations and even charges effectively would have no effect on his (presidential) candidacy. He can continue to run, he can even be elected and he can serve,” Perry said.
Perry believes Trump might use the possible indictment to rally his 2024 presidential campaign.
In his social media post on Saturday, Trump urged his supporters to protest.
"Protest, take our nation back!" said Trump, whose supporters stormed the US Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, to try to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat.
While the post may have been “ill-advised”, Perry said, Trump is unlikely to be charged with incitement for it, even if violence does result.
Bragg's office earlier this month invited Trump to testify before the grand jury probing the payment, which legal experts said was a sign that an indictment was close. Trump declined the offer, the person familiar with the matter said.
The probe is one of several legal woes Trump faces as he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency. Trump is also confronting a state-level criminal probe in Georgia over efforts to overturn the 2020 results in that state.
A special counsel named by US Attorney General Merrick Garland is currently investigating Trump's handling of classified government documents after leaving office, as well as his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Danya Perry said that the fact that there are several concurrent investigations does not indicate that they are politically motivated.