MANHATTAN, NY – Former President Donald J. Trump is facing potential criminal charges for his alleged involvement in covering up a sex scandal. While federal prosecutors have accused him of plotting to subvert American democracy and mishandling nuclear secrets, state prosecutors in Manhattan are preparing to be the first to try him on criminal charges related to the sex scandal.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has already begun reaching out to witnesses, including Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s former fixer. Cohen and at least two others involved in the hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 are expected to meet with prosecutors in the coming weeks.
To bolster their case, District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg has added one of his most experienced trial lawyers to the team. In recent public appearances, Bragg has presented the case as a clear-cut instance of election interference, asserting that Trump defrauded the American people by concealing the illegal payoff to the porn star just days before the 2016 election.
Bragg’s rebranding of the case aims to highlight its importance and draw parallels with the federal case in Washington, D.C., where Trump is accused of seeking to overturn the 2020 election. While the federal trial is scheduled to begin on March 4, appeals could push it into late spring or summer, potentially making Bragg the first prosecutor to put a former president on trial.
Trump currently faces four indictments comprising 91 felony counts, as well as a civil fraud trial and a defamation case. These legal battles are unfolding against the backdrop of the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, where Trump is positioning himself as a political martyr fighting against the Democratic elite.
While Trump has tried to delay or maneuver around all four trials, facing Bragg’s case first might be advantageous for him. The Manhattan prosecution jump-started his online fundraising efforts earlier this year, rallying his base. Additionally, some Democrats argue that the federal case in Washington would highlight the worst day of Trump’s presidency and feature testimony from former senior aides, reminding voters of the perils of having Trump in the Oval Office.
Facing witnesses like Michael Cohen in the Manhattan case might be more appealing to Trump, as he can attack Cohen’s credibility. Cohen, who made the hush-money payment to the porn star on Trump’s behalf, has claimed that he was only acting upon Trump’s orders.
The jury pool in heavily Democratic Manhattan could be sympathetic to Bragg’s case, given the previous conviction of Trump’s company for tax fraud in 2022. According to a story in the New York Times, Susan Hoffinger, who led that trial, is now heading the team prosecuting the former president. The case also poses a unique threat to Trump, as he would not be able to pardon himself if convicted in state court, and he could face up to four years in prison. Despite Trump’s attempts to have the case moved to federal court, it will remain in state court. The state court judge overseeing the case is expected to set the trial date soon.
While the timeline of the federal case in Washington remains uncertain, Bragg’s trial in Manhattan could begin on March 25. If he goes first, Bragg’s efforts to portray Trump as undermining the integrity of a presidential election would gain even greater significance as he seeks to persuade the public of the righteousness of his case.
The case against Trump features other hush-money payments made during his first campaign, including one to a former Playboy model and another to a doorman with an embarrassing story about the candidate.
The district attorney has argued that this pattern goes beyond covering up tabloid stories and constitutes election interference. As these legal battles unfold, the future of Trump’s political career hangs in the balance. The outcomes of the trials may have far-reaching consequences for both Trump and the American political landscape.