TRUMP. The former American president and current favorite in the Republican primaries was charged on Tuesday, August 1, with "conspiracy against the American state". He had tried to reverse the result of the presidential elections in 2020.
On Tuesday, August 1, 2023, former United States President Donald Trump was charged with "conspiring against the American state" for his attempts to reverse the 2020 presidential election, and for his role in the assault on the Capitol by his supporters in 2021. This is the heaviest charge to be brought against him, already burdened with two other indictments. It also has an unprecedented character because it is the first time that a former head of state has been the subject of it. These charges come after an investigation by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, a specialist in the fight against corruption.
In the indictment published by AFP and many American media, it is stated that "Despite his defeat, the accused was determined to remain in power. Therefore, for more than two months after the election of 3 November 2020, the defendant spread lies that there had been fraud that altered the result and that he had in fact won". The indictment then specifies that Donald Trump was well aware that the information he was relaying was lies, "but the defendant repeated them and disseminated them widely despite everything".
Concretely, what does the ex-president risk? The charges against Donald Trump are punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. For plotting against the state, the billionaire faces up to 5 years in prison. And it is for trying to obstruct American justice that he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The current favorite in the Republican primaries had announced, upon receipt of a letter from Jack Smith informing him of the ongoing investigation on July 18, that he would maintain his campaign even if he were to be condemned.
Donald Trump is also accused of having "orchestrated" several payments in order to cover up three cases deemed embarrassing in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. In detail, Donald Trump allegedly paid:
However, according to the indictment, the billionaire passed these expenses in the "legal fees" of Trump Tower, his company. However, according to justice, this could be similar to campaign expenses. He was therefore charged with "falsification of accounting documents", detailed in 34 charges.
After his appearance, Donald Trump emerged free from the New York court, without judicial review. He was therefore not remanded in custody. But can he go to jail? If it is difficult to advance given the unknown charges, it should be noted that in the State of New York, these offenses are only punishable by imprisonment if they aim to to "cover up" another offence. And that is the whole question that surrounds this file. Seeing Trump behind bars seems unlikely, but the hypothesis does exist under the law.
The charges brought against Donald Trump, like the penalties incurred, can however be revised downwards. The billionaire does not have a criminal record, so it is unlikely that he will receive a long prison term, especially for a "low-level non-violent criminal offence".
The conviction of the former American president, itself, is not certain. The boss of the Trump Organization is already certain not to go to prison for the duration of the trial. According to experts quoted by Le Monde during the first appearance, the judge should decide on the amount of the bail and a release and the billionaire could pay this sum.
Donald Trump's indictment comes just months into the 2024 presidential campaign, but it won't be a damper on the billionaire's political ambitions. Article 2 of the American Constitution which provides for the conditions of eligibility of the President of the United States does not mention the obligation to have a clean criminal record. This indictment, the holding of a trial and even a prison sentence will therefore not prevent Donald Trump from being a candidate for the election in 2024. He would, however, be the first former head of state in this situation. .
Among the proceedings against Donald Trump, only one could be an obstacle to his candidacy: the federal investigation into the January 6, 2021 insurrection better known as the assault on the Capitol in which the former head of state allegedly played a role. To be responsible or to have participated in a rebellion against the United States is indeed a criterion of inequality in the American presidency. If after a parliamentary inquiry the committee of the House of Representatives retained four grounds for prosecution including "incitement to insurrection", no charge has yet been brought against the billionaire. It would also be necessary for the investigation to lead to the indictment of Donald Trump and for the prosecutions and trials to take place before 2024 and the presidential election to call the Republican's candidacy into question.
If his candidacy is still possible despite the indictment and a possible trial, will Donald Trump still have a chance of winning in 2024? Republican advisers and associates are divided on this point. Some consider that this high-profile affair puts the real estate mogul back in the center of attention, it is not the first, nor the biggest scandal in which the 76-year-old man is involved. The multiple reactions observed on the Republican side also show the weight of Donald Trump in this political camp. Even his rival, candidate and presumed favorite for a Republican primary, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis supported him in the face of justice. All these statements give Donald Trump an almost untouchable position and could push Republican voters towards him on the ballot. But the indictment and holding a trial would be expensive for the candidate, and his advisers have recognized that it would be difficult to organize an electoral campaign in parallel with a criminal trial which will, undoubtedly, also be very publicized, according to the newspaper of the American capital.
If Donald Trump is accused of paying porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a hypothetical extramarital affair, it's more the concealment of that payment that's more of a misdemeanor or a felony for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Donald Trump reportedly instructed his attorney Michaël Cohen to pay by check during the 2016 presidential campaign and reimbursed him after his election for legal fees in campaign accounts. Cohen himself confessed and pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws in 2018. He is the lead witness in this case.