Trump Charged with Campaign Finance Violation
By: Alexander Winton
Former US President Donald Trump has been indicted for fraud over hush money payments made before the 2016 election. Law professor Eric Johnson explains that the crime was initially supposed to be a misdemeanor. However, under New York State law, since the crime was committed to conceal or further another crime, it was elevated to a felony. Johnson explains that the basic distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is that the former is punishable by more than a year in prison, whereas the latter is punishable by less than a year in jail. Johnson also highlights that the concept of a misdemeanor being elevated to a felony because one crime was committed to conceal another is standard in criminal law.
Regarding the charges against Trump, Johnson believes that it is possible that the evidence presented may result in a conviction, but that the maximum penalty of four years for each of the 34 counts is unlikely to be imposed. Johnson also states that if Trump is convicted, the sentences would likely run concurrently since the counts are closely related.
When asked about potential legal defenses that Trump's lawyers could use to fight the charges against him, Johnson suggests that Trump's lawyers could argue that the records in question did not satisfy the statutory definition of a business record. However, he notes that it is unclear if this defense will be successful.
The potential punishment Trump faces is uncertain since the full extent of the case against Trump has not yet been revealed.
Johnson believes that this indictment against Trump highlights the importance of campaign finance laws and their enforcement. “Campaign finance violations and business fraud are serious crimes, and the fact that they were allegedly committed by a former US President emphasizes the need for accountability and transparency in government, “ he said. Johnson stated that as the case against Trump moves forward, it will be interesting to see how the legal system handles the charges against him and what precedent it may set for future cases.