An Introduction to the Trump Criminal Case

The Trump Trials

Former President Donald Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts in the New York County Supreme Court, marking the first time a former president of the United States has faced criminal charges. The charges have been outlined in a 16-page indictment, which alleges that Trump acquired and purchased negative information about himself, then manipulated business records to conceal those purchases, all as part of a scheme to influence the outcome of the presidential election in 2016.

How did it all work?

According to the statement of facts, Trump requested that Michael Cohen, special counsel for the Trump Organization, covertly pay Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, $130,000 shortly before the election to prevent her from publicizing a sexual encounter she had with him. This payment, which has been classified as an illegal campaign contribution, was made possible by false entries in New York business records and subsequently concealed through more false entries in New York business records.

Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor under New York state law. It can, however, be elevated to a felony if the act is committed to cover up another crime, such as campaign finance violations. This is where the case gets complicated, as it combines business records charges with federal election law violations. But there’s still a lot we don’t know. While the indictment has been made public, it does not provide insight into the specific legal theories supporting the case, leaving us to wonder how, exactly, the district attorney plans to connect the falsification of business records to campaign finance violations in order to obtain felony convictions. This makes it difficult to assess the legal merits of the case at this point in time.

What happens next?

At Trump’s arraignment, the Hon. Juan Merchan established a timeline for pre-trial procedures. Pre-trial motions must be filed by August 8, 2023. Legal experts expect Joe Tacopina, Trump’s attorney, to file a motion to dismiss the indictment by that date.

Thirsty for more?

Trump faces a handful of active civil cases in the State of New York, many of which are just as pressing, if not more immediate. Track these pending cases on Trellis Research, which aggregates state trial court dockets and documents and allows users to set Alerts and receive real-time notifications when there are updates:

  • People of the State of New York (Letitia James, Attorney General of the State of New York) v. Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Allen Weisselberg, Jeffrey McConney, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, the Trump Organization [Case no. 452564/2022]
  • Mary L. Trump v. Donald J. Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry, Shawn Hughes (the executor of the Estate of Robert S. Trump) [Case no. 654698/2020]
  • Donald J. Trump v. Mary L. Trump, the New York Times Company, Susanne Craig, David Barstow, Russell Buettner, ABC Corporation’s John Does (1 through 10) [Case no. 453299/2021]

Prior to founding Trellis, Nicole Clark was a business litigation and labor and employment attorney who handled litigation in both state and federal courts. She regularly represented multinational corporations in claims ranging from high-profile trade secret disputes to complex class-action litigation. Frustrated by sending internal emails and collecting anecdotes on judges in order to make strategic case recommendations, she built Trellis to solve her own need for access to data, information, and analytics at the state trial court level. Prior to law school, Nicole attended Bard College, beginning her college coursework at the age of sixteen. She graduated with honors from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in Journalism, and received her Juris Doctorate from Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ. Nicole sat for the Bar Exam in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and remains licensed to practice law in all three states.