- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday anticipated making history as the first former president to be charged with a crime. 

Instead, the day ended as it started: with the world hankering to know whether Mr. Trump will be indicted and arrested for falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Trump is not out of the woods yet, as legal analysts say the Manhattan grand jury that has been hearing evidence in secret for weeks could still settle on criminal charges.

If the grand jury returns an indictment, it will take time to sort out what happens next before it is made public, including whether to bring charges as a felony or misdemeanor and negotiating the possible surrender of an ex-president.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Jared Carter, professor of constitutional law at Vermont Law and Graduate School. “We’ve got the Secret Service involved. It is going to be a very different and more careful process that the district attorney is going to have to go through.”

Another big question is whether Mr. Trump would turn himself in to New York authorities or force them to arrest him. If he holes up at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would not give permission to extradite Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump says he has done nothing wrong and is seeking to discredit his former fixer Michael Cohen, who has testified before the grand jury. 

Mr. Cohen claims Mr. Trump directed him to make payments to Ms. Daniels in the hopes of keeping her silent about a sexual encounter in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign.

“In the history of our Country there cannot have been a more damaged or less credible witness at trial than fully disbarred lawyer and felon, Michael Cohen,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday on Truth Social.

Ms. Daniels made light of the situation on social media, posting “Anything exciting going on today?”

Mr. Trump is still the front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential race, and his legal troubles are testing his hold on the party.

“President Trump is out-working Joe Biden and every other candidate — declared or not — in order to Make America Great Again,” said Trump spokesman Steven Cheung.

Mr. Trump released a video Tuesday outlining his 2024 campaign plan to “shatter the deep state and restore government is controlled by the people and for the people.”

Mr. Trump said he will oust “rogue bureaucrats” and “clean out all the corrupt actors in our national security and intelligence apparatus.” He also promised to overhaul government agencies that have been “weaponized” against conservatives.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have rallied behind Mr. Trump, casting as politically motivated the investigation of a crime that would normally be a misdemeanor and which has exceeded the statute of limitations for prosecution. 

The GOP-led House Judiciary Committee is requesting a cache of documents and communications from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is running the grand jury probe.

On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, took things a step further.

“A Trump indictment would be a disgusting abuse of power. The DA should be put in jail,” Mr. Paul tweeted.

Mr. Bragg’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump is also in legal jeopardy from Atlanta-area prosecutors investigating election interference in Georgia and a Justice Department probe of his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The rumblings about a pending indictment in the New York case gained steam last week when NBC News reported law enforcement agencies were readying for a possible indictment.

Mr. Trump took to social media to warn his supporters he was going to be arrested and called on them to protest. It raised concerns that Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters could wreak havoc in much the same way a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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