The Memo: Trump indicted over hush money payments to adult film star

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Trump indicted over hush money payments to adult film star

Amy Howe & Taiwo Oshodi – 3 March 2023

In a first for the US, ex-President Donald Trump is facing a criminal indictment. Just this week, it was announced that Trump would face criminal charges over hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels regarding an alleged affair. This makes Trump the first ex-US president to face such charges, which could well mean he’ll be snapped for a mugshot. Say cheese.

While surprising, the indictment doesn’t come completely out of the blue for those in the know; weeks of speculation has included indications that the former President faces more than 30 counts related to fraud. Though it is unlikely we will find out details of the indictment until the scheduled hearing on Tuesday 4th April, we do know the charges relate to the $130k payment made on behalf of Trump by his then-attorney Michael Cohen for the alleged affair back in 2006, a time at which he had been married to his current wife, Melania, for a year.

Ten years later, in 2016, Daniels had intended to sell her version of events, before being paid to bury it during 2016’s presidential campaign. This in itself is not illegal, but the way the payment was recorded may have been, and this is what is driving the DA’s investigation. Trump recorded the $130,000 expense to his lawyers as a payment of legal fees. By law, this is considered falsification of business records – a criminal offence in New York which carries penalties including probation, community service, fines, and even incarceration.

To throw a spanner in the works, prosecutors could allege that Trump’s motivation to conceal his payment to Daniels was directly linked to his election at the time. A scandal surrounding an affair could well have taken a toll on poll results after all. This means the ex-president would be facing a conviction of covering up a crime through the falsification of records. According to the New York Penal Law, this is a felony which carries a punishment of one to four years in jail.

Though it’s a route prosecutors could potentially take, it’s worth noting that previous attempts to convict politicians of blurring boundaries between campaign finance and personal spending have fallen flat. What’s more, to the surprise of nobody, Trump’s team has no intention of taking this lying down. Trump’s current attorney, Joe Tacopina, argues that Trump’s sign off on the payments were done purely on the guidance of Michael Cohen, and that because these payments were made to Cohen and not Stormy Daniels, they must be considered legal fees.