By Lexi Meola
Web Editor and Social Media Manager
According to the New York Times, on March 30, twice impeached, former President Donald Trump was indicted by a New York jury for his alleged role in a hush money scandal in 2016. He was then arraigned on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records on April 4.
It is the first time in the history of the United States that a former President was indicted on criminal charges, which has led to controversy and plenty of opposition from Republicans around the U.S. However, this indictment is arguably warranted due to the crimes presented in the official filing.
Aside from this indictment, Trump is at the center of multiple ongoing investigations related to the January 6 insurrection, 2020 election tampering in Georgia, and the document mishandling that led to the FBI searching his Florida house, Mar-A-Lago.
The indictment was heavily focused on the hush money payment of Stormy Daniels from a former lawyer of Trump, Michael Cohen, who became a key witness in this case. It also highlighted the “catch and kill” scheme reportedly set up with American Media Inc., which owns the National Inquirer.
A “catch and kill” scheme is when parties work to find any negative stories and suppress them before they are released to the American public. According to the official indictment filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Trump worked with tabloid executives David Pecker and Michael Cohen to actively suppress any negative stories about himself leading up to the 2016 election.
Allegedly, this plan led to a former doorman, who had a negative story about Trump, getting paid off by Pecker. Cohen ended up paying off Stormy Daniels, an adult film director, and star, who claimed she had an affair with Trump while he was married to Melania Trump after they just welcomed their son, Barron Trump.
Each count of falsifying business records, in this case, represents every check Trump falsified to pay back Cohen and Pecker for their expenses in the “catch and kill” scheme. The indictment did not notify if these charges could lead to other suspected charges, such as tax fraud or election fraud.
Trump’s indictment is important because it sends an important message to politicians, billionaires, and the American people: no one is above the law.
Many GOP leaders slammed Bragg for introducing a politically-motivated case and charging a former president. However, many seem to be forgetting that Trump is a regular citizen. He is not entitled to any preferential treatment simply because he is a former president.
Trump has started to use his indictment as an excuse to fundraise and energize his political base. He also continued to use his platform Truth Social to post about Bragg and his family, claiming that Bragg “hates him” and is “out to get him.”
Throughout his candidacy for President, his Presidency, and after leaving the White House, Trump allegedly committed numerous crimes and has been using the highest office in the United States as a cover.
By indicting Trump, Bragg sends a message that many have forgotten because of the scandals flowing through Congress, the Supreme Court, and the office of the President. Being elected to any office, including the highest office, does not mean people can abuse the power given to commit crimes. The power given to any person in the office by the people can and should be taken away from the people.
As Trump prepares for a tumultuous 2024 run for President, it is important to realize what extent Trump went to become President in 2016. He actively suppressed any negative stories against him, therefore violating the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press and speech. If he was willing to go this far during the last two elections, what is stopping him from doing the same in 2024 if he does not face consequences for his actions?
Trump and his allies should be held accountable in all of the cases if there is evidence of wrongdoings. Our democracy depends on checks and balances to hold any government official accountable for their actions. If Trump walks on any of these cases, it sets a horrible precedent for the future of the United States and democracy.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Donald Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges for his alleged involvement in a hush money scheme in 2016.