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Could Donald Trump Go To Prison?

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Trump’s indictment, a historical moment in the United States

Sophie Anabelle Somé

Staff Writer

Photo via CTV News.

New treaties, enhanced welfare programs, redistribution of state funding or military actions seem to make the dance of most American presidencies. Historical moments come by thousands, but ones that involve former American presidents may be scarce. On March 30, 2023, Donald Trump marked history as the first former president to be indicted.

Donald Trump is facing 34 counts related to business fraud and the former president turned himself in to the authorities on April 4th in a Manhattan court in New York. According to BBC News, Trump was fingerprinted, his information was taken and he is now considered arrested and in custody.

The story begins in 2006 when Trump and adult film actress Stormy Daniels meet at a charity golf tournament and the actress claims that they had a sexual relationship. Before the 2016 elections, Daniels accepted a $130,000 payment from Micheal Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, in exchange for her silence. Cohen’s payment was considered a contribution to Trump’s campaign and it was deemed an illegal donation. By the Federal Election Campaign Act, individuals are limited to $2,700 donations and corporations are forbidden from making any contributions to a candidate’s election campaign. In December 2018, Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years of prison and served lofty fines for multiple crimes committed to help Trump’s Organization, including the payment to Stormy Daniels. In early fall 2016, another $150,000 payment was made to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, in the same circumstances as Daniels' case. This kind of payment, also called hush-money payments, was made to a doorman who allegedly says that Trump had a child out of marriage.

Donald Trump completely denies any sexual involvement with Daniels or McDougal. He says that he is unaware of the payments and wants to attack the case and fight the prosecutors. Trump firmly believes that he is innocent and pleaded not guilty in the case against him. However, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s former attorney, revealed publicly that Donald Trump made a series of payments to Cohen as reimbursement for the settlement with Daniels. After his statement, Trump acknowledged that Cohen was reimbursed for what he called “false and extortionist accusations.” In regards to his recent indictment, the reimbursement payments were filed as “legal fees” which equates to the falsification of business records. According to The Insider, Donald Trump could be facing from zero to four years in prison. However, since he is a first-time offender and his crimes are deemed non-violent, the 76 years old future elections candidate might avoid jail. For instance, he could be fined or compelled to do community service.

Trump’s response to his indictment was fierce and troublesome. According to NBC News, former president Donald Trump could be facing additional charges for his violent comments about Alvin Bragg, the district attorney who filed the indictment. In an article published by The Hill, he qualifies the people at the origin of his indictment as the “Radical Left Democrats” and “the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this country.” Donald Trump denominates Alvin Bragg as “a disgrace” and “doing Joe Biden’s dirty work.” He refers to himself as “a completely innocent person” and believes that the Democrats “have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again Movement.” It appears that Trump is instrumentalizing his indictment to his advantage. According to The Guardian, Trump has a stern fixation on having his mugshot taken, and he wishes to print it on T-shirts as a campaign tactic.

Concerning the 2024 elections, the American Constitution does not require a president to be free from indictment, conviction or being in prison. Donald Trump, if it comes to that, could run for office from prison and even serve as president. In order to protect the judicial system, Trump would be subjected to the same rules as “regular” prisoners. Quite surprisingly, such a campaign has been done before. In 1920, Eugene V. Debs, a socialist and so-called “radical” ran for office while he was incarcerated in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Although he did not win the elections, he gathered an interesting amount of supporters. About 70 years later, in 1991, Lyndon LaRouche was seeking the Democratic Party nomination while serving a 15-year sentence for committing mail fraud and campaign fraud conspiracy.

Trump’s indictment or possible conviction could intrinsically change people’s trust in the American judicial system. This type of procedure could be used as a weapon against future politicians. Perhaps, this could also reinforce the idea that the law is applicable to anybody, former president or not. Now the question that arises is, how would you feel if your president had a criminal record, or was charged prior to his presidency?


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