Editorial 30 May 2024

Editorial 30 May 2024

Title: In the dock: On Donald Trump and his legal challenge

Former U.S. President Donald Trump stands on the edge of history as potentially the first American to have held the highest public office in the country to be convicted on a felony charge. Mr. Trump has, in recent weeks, been pursuing his legal defence in the case brought by the U.S. District Attorney’s office in New York state involving 34 charges relating to hush-money that Mr. Trump allegedly paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, in exchange for her silence over a purported affair between the two of them. After six weeks of tortuous arguments, courtroom drama and political campaigning at the very doorsteps of the courthouse, the jury in the case will now deliberate on the facts laid out before them and possibly return a judgment in the coming weeks. During the trial, the prosecution sought to argue that the testimony of Michael Cohen, formerly Mr. Trump’s lawyer, made it clear beyond doubt that in paying off Ms. Daniels to the tune of $1,30,000 in 2016 over the alleged affair between them in 2006, Mr. Trump was guilty of falsifying business records to hide that expenditure and “orchestrated a scheme to keep unflattering information from voters in what was an early example of election interference”. Mr. Trump’s defence relied on painting Mr. Cohen a “liar” and seeking to discredit his account of Mr. Trump reimbursing him for the payout to Ms. Daniels.

Even if Mr. Trump is found guilty on any of the charges, he would leave the courthouse a free man as he has been on bail throughout the case thus far. He would seek to remain free at least until he appeals to the Appellate Division in Manhattan, and possibly faces the Court of Appeals. While each charge in the case carries a potential maximum sentence of four years, if there is a sentencing hearing, then the judge may take several factors into account, including Mr Trump’s age of 77 years, the lack of a previous conviction and the non-violent nature of the alleged crimes. Even if Mr. Trump successfully evades the full force of the law in the hush-money case, he faces three other felony indictments, including in federal and state cases relating to interference in the 2020 election, and his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, as well as allegations that he mishandled classified documents that were found at his residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, after he had demitted office. While these cases are stuck in the appeals process and would be unlikely to reach trial this year, it is safe to say that no matter what the outcome of the jury’s deliberations is in the New York case, the political climate will only get further vitiated and polarised as the country lurches forward to the November 5 presidential election.

Meaning of the word:

PurportedThe term “purported” means alleged or claimed to be true, but not necessarily proven or supported by evidence. When something is described as “purported,” it suggests that there is some doubt or uncertainty about its validity or authenticity.Alleged
SentencingSentencing refers to the judicial determination of a punishment to be imposed on a person who has been found guilty of a crime.Punishment
FelonyA felony is a category of crime that is considered to be more serious than a misdemeanor and typically carries more severe punishments.Crime
Petty offense
IndictmentsAn indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime. It is a critical step in the criminal justice process, particularly in systems that use grand juries, such as the United States.Accusation
DemittedThe term “demitted” is the past tense and past participle of “demit.” To demit means to resign or step down from a position or office, especially in a formal or official capacity.Resigned

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