Overview of Trump’s Cases
Multiple criminal cases currently pending against former U.S. president Donald Trump spells uncertainty for his 2024 presidential bid (GPA Photo Archive, Flickr)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump is currently facing four indictments. As he continues to plead his innocence in hopes of securing a second presidential term, individuals from both political parties consider these trials as a testament to American democracy and its potential criticisms.
Among Democrats, some have questioned how a president who has been indicted can become the leader of the country. However, many Republicans have conversely voiced their frustrations over what they view as the unfair treatment of one of their presidential candidates. One reporter for SkyNewsAustralia expressed his anger while discussing Trump’s indictment for allegedly directing hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, arguing that it was a rounding error and not a felony, as claimed by the district attorney. As a result of this political and legal strife, many across the nation have begun to worry about the future of the country.
What is the Evidence Against Trump? How Did He Plead?
One of the foremost cases, brought by Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith, involves unclassified documents Trump allegedly housed at his private Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving the White House. Although prosecutors are still debating what evidence can be used in court, the media has received some potentially incriminating tapes and documentation. Most notably, CNN obtained a recording of Trump admitting that the papers he was holding in the recording were confidential. The most significant evidence within this audio is when Trump states, “See, as president I could have declassified it, but I didn’t,” which can be used to argue he was aware the documents were not classified but still had them in his possession.
After Trump pleaded not guilty to all 37 counts of alleged document mishandling, he was soon questioned by media outlets on the reliability of the audio tapes. A spokesperson for Trump eventually came out and stated that “Trump was speaking rhetorically” in the tape. Trump also addressed the situation in an interview with Megyn Kelly. During the interview, he was unable to identify the documents specifically but claimed that he was not aware that he had to turn in the documents, adding, “I was allowed to have them, so I don’t even know that.”
Other pieces of potential evidence include allegations that Trump ordered his workers to delete security footage from his Mar-a-Lago property, possibly to prevent prosecutors from accessing them. In an interview with NBC, he suggested that he would testify under oath that nothing happened to the footage and claimed that the charge was not serious.
Lastly, an aide who used to work with Trump, named Molly Michael, told investigators that Trump had written on the back of multiple cards that were later identified as classified. She also stated that Trump asked her not to acknowledge that she knew of the documents. According to other sources, they were found at his Mar-a-Lago estate but were not collected by the FBI. However, a representative for Trump dismissed Molly’s report as an illegal leak and denied Trump’s alleged wrongdoings.
How are Trump and His Team Proceeding in Court?
After Trump’s indictments, he and his legal team have had issues proceeding with some of the cases. For the case involving allegations of election interference, Trump hinted on social media that he would try to move the case out of Washington D.C. As he suggests that it is not possible to receive a fair trial in the largely liberal-leaning D.C. court, he and his legal defense counsel John Lauro have revealed the possibility of transferring the case to West Virginia.
However, this could be difficult to accomplish, as many judges have already rejected Trump’s allegations of bias. Recently, a judge denied Trump’s motion to move the case to April 2026, after the presidential election. The judge overseeing the motion, Tonya Chutkan, stated, “I take seriously the defense’s request that Trump be treated like any other defendant that appears before the court and I intend to do so.” She also suggested that moving the trial would allow witnesses to become unavailable, so she set the trial date for March 2024.
Trump and his legal team have also taken issue with some of the judges overseeing his cases, at one point requesting a judge recuse himself from the case entirely. He and his legal team alleged the judge, Juan Manuel Merchan of the New York Supreme Court, would be impartial due to his daughter's work contributions to Democrat candidates and his involvement with an ongoing criminal case against Trump’s associate, Allen Weisslberg. Merchan denied the motion, even reaching out to the New York State Advisory Committee of Judicial Ethics, which found none of Trump’s arguments sufficient to warrant recusal. Following the motion’s denial, Trump also sued New York Supreme Court Judge Author Engoron, accusing him of stretching out his case, hence giving the opposing side more time to prepare for trial.
Although Trump’s team has emphasized the importance of a fair trial, many of his lawyers have recently quit. One lawyer in particular, Timothy Parlatore, who worked on the Mar-a-Lago case, explained that his decision to leave was not due to the client or the case itself. Instead, he claimed that there were certain individuals alongside Trump’s team who prevented him from doing his job accurately, going so far as to block Parlatore from receiving certain information. Along with his statement, Timothy Parlatore and six other lawyers have either testified to Jack Smith’s jury or met with his investigators.
Sources state that due to the large number of prosecutors defending Trump, it seems that distrust is a major issue in his team. Some lawyers have also shown a willingness to manipulate the case in order to avoid getting drawn into Trump’s legal troubles.
Will History Repeat Itself?
As Trump’s cases proceed, several historical parallels have come to light. On national media, Lauro spoke on Trump’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. “Trump had every right to advocate for his position,” John argued, adding that former Vice President Pence would be the defense’s best witness, as he had previously stated that there were unlawful actions taken place at the state level, abolishing any question on whether Trump had any criminal intent in his alleged election interference.
As for the Mar-a-Lago case, Trump is not the only politician to have an investigation surrounding unclassified documents. One of the most common arguments in defense of Trump is that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also maintained confidential emails on a private server. An investigation later concluded that Clinton lacked caution in her handling of the emails but did not harbor any criminal intent. The main takeaway is that Clinton had no charges filed against her even though she was not officially found innocent in a legal sense.
Other presidents have also been brought into the discussion on classified documents, including Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. The main difference is that once found with classified information, both presidents returned them as soon as possible. Trump did not promptly return the classified materials back, arguing that he was too busy and did not have the time to sort through his personal necessities.
How Will This Affect Trump and Democracy?
Although Trump’s legal troubles have taken a huge chunk out of his campaign finances (more than 20 million dollars just from his PAC, Save America), his indictment has also helped him fundraise, increasing campaign contributions by one million in the days following his initial indictment.
A recent international poll addressed how much confidence various countries have in their electoral system, and out of 32 countries, the U.S. fell third to last. According to this poll, due to social media, citizens are now exposed to a larger variety of issues. However, this kind of transparency is raising significant doubt for the American people, as shown in the polls. Dissecting Trump’s cases reveals several critical points that have contributed to this skeptical view of the American democratic system.
Sources and Further Reading