You may be wondering if ‘hush money’ is actually illegal, as former President Donald Trump claims he expects to be arrested in connection with such a scheme.
On Saturday March 18, Donald Trump shared the news that he is anticipating his impending arrest. He did not explain how he had been informed of an alleged pending arrest, and provided no evidence of how it is planned to be carried out.
“The leading Republican candidate and former President of the United States will be arrested Tuesday of next week,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social.
In this post, Trump did not address why he expects to be arrested, however it has allegedly been linked to New York prosecutors’ investigation into the former president’s role in a hush money scheme. But is hush money illegal and could it really impeach Trump? We’ve done some research into the law surrounding such schemes.
Is hush money illegal?
No, secret money schemes are not illegal. Despite talk of the possible arrest of Donald Trump in connection with a hush money scheme, the act itself is not illegal or a felony. It can be considered a shady act, but it’s common among organizations and individuals when not-so-friendly PR developments come to light.
So knowing that hush money is not illegal, you may be wondering what charges Trump is allegedly facing. The former US president, who served from 2017 to 2021, potentially faces charges of falsifying Trump Organization business records. This is a misdemeanor in New York.
The alleged falsification of business records hinges on a payment made by the Trump Organization to Trump’s then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen had made a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, just before the presidential election. Daniels and Trump allegedly had an affair a decade ago, which Trump continues to deny. The Trump Organization listed the refunds as a legal expense on its books. Trump previously denied any knowledge of any such payment.
After an investigation into this secret money scheme, Cohen was arrested. Cohen later admitted that the payments were made to protect Trump in the run-up to the election. He was accused of violating the Federal Electoral Campaign Law (FECA). This law makes it illegal to make an unreported donation of more than $2,700 to a candidate in a general election.
Michael Cohen was tried and sentenced in a criminal case, not a civil one, as he admitted to “knowingly and willfully” violating campaign finance laws. He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to three years in prison.
How Trump’s alleged involvement could land him in jail
New York prosecutors are currently weighing whether to charge Donald Trump with falsifying business records for the Trump Organization. This would be classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony.
But there is another, more significant charge related to falsifying records that is being investigated. If it is proven in court that Trump falsified business records in the first degree with the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal another crime, in this case a violation of strict campaign finance laws, Trump faces a Class E felony. This carries a minimum of one year and up to four years in prison. This charge depends on whether such action was taken “knowingly and willfully,” as in Cohen’s case. Prosecutors would have to prove Trump’s intent to carry out this crime.
After Trump’s Truth Social post was published, a spokesperson for the Republican candidate’s team said they had not received any updates from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is leading the investigation. The Manhattan district attorney’s office also declined to comment on the matter, following the Truth Social post. There have been no charges pending confirmation against the former president, and Trump’s representative also stating he was not informed by the police but through media reports about his alleged upcoming arrest.
How the secret money investigation unfolds
New York prosecutors are under the impression that their investigation into the secret money scheme is coming to an end. Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office recently asked Donald Trump to appear before the grand jury investigating the case. In New York, potential defendants are required to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury before charges can be weighed.
We probably won’t have a verdict until the end of the month or until late spring. Another witness is expected to testify on Monday, March 20, before the grand jury. But it is not yet clear if this would be the last witness before the verdict.
An indictment against Donald Trump would make him the first former US president and current presidential candidate to be criminally charged. There is no indication as to whether this affects his current presidential campaign. Trump has run for president three times.
The former president continues to be investigated for a range of charges ranging from fraud and falsifying records to the Mar-O-Lago documents.
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