Accusations that Donald Trump has been indicted and his arrest is imminent have taken the internet by storm. Surprisingly enough, the allegation comes from Trump himself. It seems Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has investigated Trump for falsifying business records, specifically records regarding payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Former President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to prison facilitating a hush money payment to Stormy on Trump’s behalf.
In 2016, when Trump was the Republican presidential nominee, his personal attorney Michael Cohen had his eye out for potential allegations that could disrupt the campaign. As his campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton ramped up, it was hit with a blow, when on October 7, less than two months before the election, an audio recording of Trump, dubbed the “Access Hollywood tape”, was released. In the tape he was heard making disparaging comments about women. After the release of the tapes, Stormy Daniels threatened to go public about an alleged affair with Trump. After the fallout of the recording, and in an effort to prevent any more damage, Cohen facilitated payments to Daniels in return for her silence.
A year prior, in 2015, Cohen met with David Pecker, the chairman of American media inc. (AMI) a company known for publishing tabloids such as the National Inquirer. Cohen and Pecker made a deal in which the National Inquirer would “catch” negative stories about Trump by buying up the rights and “kill” them by never publishing them.
Six weeks before the Republican National Convention, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy bunny, came forward with an alleged affair with Trump. Following through on their agreement with Cohen, in June 2016, AMI purchased McDougal’s life story rights for $150,000. Pecker then went to assign the rights to the story to Cohen for $125,000. The next day, Cohen incorporated a shell company, “Resolution Consultants LLC,” to covertly receive the money.
A recording of Cohen explaining the situation to Trumpwasreleased.
“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David…and I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time for the financing…”
“What financing?” said Trump.
“We’ll have to pay him something,” responded Cohen.
Ultimately, Pecker backed out of the rights transfer but continued to watch for other possible stories damaging to Trump. Eventually, Pecker informed Cohen that Daniels’ was willing to sell her story and was currently in talks with Good Morning America. Cohen negotiated a deal with Daniels, offering $130,000 in return for her silence.
In order to arrange the payment without leaving a direct trail to Trump, Cohen drew money from his home equity line of credit and requested it be deposited into the account of yet another shell company, “Essential Consultants.” Cohen then wired the $130,000 directly from
Essential Consultants to Daniels’ lawyer, after which Daniels signed a confidentiality agreement. Required paperwork surrounding the transfer falsely labeled the transition’s purpose as that of a legal retainer.
In 2017, Cohen invoiced the Trump organization for the purposes of recouping the money. He was paid back in monthly $35,000 increments which were marked as “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for the relevant month,” once again a false label.
By the end of 2017, the payments, labeled legal expenses by The Trump Organization, totaled to $420,000. This total was a combination of payment for Cohen’s services, payment for reimbursement of the Daniels payment, as well as an extra 60,000 to account for the income tax Cohen would have to pay on the hush money.
“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” tweeted Trump regarding allegation that campaign funds had been misused.
In 2018, Trump lawyer Rudy Guliani confirmed that the Daniels payment was “funneled through our firm and the president repaid it.”
“Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” said Guiliani. “Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
Cohen ended up pleading guilty to two financial campaign violations. Because the Daniels payoff was legally considered a campaign contribution and the legal cutoff for what Cohen would be allowed to give to support the Trump Candidacy was $5400, it was found that Cohen was in violation of campaign finance laws.
It was also found that Cohen violated campaign finance laws in his payment to Karen Mcdougal. The AMI payment to McDougal was considered a secret contri- bution to Trump’s Campaign, something corporations are not permitted to do. The National Enquirer had simultaneously been running a barrage of sleazy headlines against Hillary Clinton, while purposefully avoiding negative Trump stories.
Ultimately, AMI entered a no prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice in which they admitted to a myriad of details. These include purposefully killing headlines that could be damaging to Trump and negotiating with McDougal at the behest of Cohen and paying her the $150,000, a rate significantly higher than normal because Cohen promised he would pay it back. Details emerged showing that AMI made a deal with McDougal, promising her two magazine covers and one-hundred published articles written by her. Due to their deal with the DOJ, no charges were pressed against the company.
According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), any expense made by a person in cooperation, consultation, or concert with or made at the request of a candidate would be considered a contribution. Because contributions count against donation limits, they must be disclosed.
Trump was required to file an annual personal disclosure report regarding his finances in 2017 but failed to disclose his debt to Cohen. Such finance violations are typically civil cases, but can occasionally turn to criminal charges if it is found someone was using the violation to actively commit or cover up a crime.
Because Trump’s DOJ followed Watergate-era protocol about not indicting a sitting president, the five-year statute of limita- tions on this possible charge has seemingly run out. The Manhattan DA weighing charges against Trump, Alvin Bragg, will likely charge Trump with falsifying records by falsely recording Cohen’s reimbursement as legal fees. The onus now falls on prosecutors to prove that there was intent to commit another crime if they want a criminal charge.
If it is shown Trump had prior knowledge of the transaction and specifically did so to improve his chances in 2016, Bragg can bring these charges. Guiliani went on to change his tone as to why Trump paid Daniels, alleging that “if you’re wealthy, you’re a target.”
“This was for personal reasons. This was—the president had been hurt personally—not politically, personally—so much, and the First Lady, by some of the false allegations, that one more false allegation, six years old, I think he was trying to help the family,” said Guliani. “For that, the man is being treated like some kind of vil- lain. And I think he was just being a good lawyer and a good man.”
“It wasn’t for the campaign. It was to save their—not their marriage as much as their reputation,” Giuliani said.
“I think everyone has something to hide. If you investigate hard enough, you’re going to find something,” said Curtis Faughnan ‘26.
According to sources close to Trump, if indicted, he specifically wants to be handcuffed and believes that if he would need to surrender himself to authorities for fingerprinting and a mug shot that he might as well turn it into a “spectacle.” Trump’s obsession with publicity seems to stem from a desire to project defiance and rile up his base for the 2024 election.
Trump’s legal team have pushed back on this approach, recommending that Trump quietly turn himself in and schedule a remote appearance, some citing guidance from his Secret Service detail amid potential Security concerns.
Despite advice, Trump seems intent on the spectacle, reportedly saying that he didn’t care if someone shot him and that it would make him “a martyr.” Later adding that if he was shot, he likely would win the 2024 election.
Many Republicans have pushed back against DA Bragg, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ron Desantis and Mike Pence.
“Now it’s time to arrest Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg for prosecutorial misconduct after hiding hundreds of pages of exculpatory evidence!” Greene tweeted. “Bragg is on the verge of indicting an innocent former President and top Presidential candidate against the opposing ruling party. Bragg is breaking the law and trying to incite civil unrest with his Soros funded political war. Hold him accountable!”
Vice President Mike Pence cited the investigation as “another politically charged prosecution against” Trump.
“That being said, there can be no tolerance for the kind of violence that we saw on Jan. 6, or throughout the summer of 2020,” added Pence.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just can’t speak to that,” said Desantis. “I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus by some Soros DA.”
In response to DeSantis, Trump posted on Truth Social, claiming that DeSantis “will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser and better known, when he’s unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are “underage” (or possibly a man!). I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
Trump seems to be making quite a profit on his impending legal issues. Trump’s 2024 campaign announced that they had amassed $1.5 million in grassroots fundraising after Trump alleged his impending arrest.
“If the current Democrat regime can get away with threatening to arrest its biggest political opponent, then our once great Republic will have fully descended into a third-world tyranny,” said a Trump campaign fundraising email. “If media leaks are correct, this could be the last time I write to you before a possible indictment comes down.”
“If you are doing poorly, as so many of you are, do not send anything. If you are doing well, which was made possible through the great policies of the Trump Administration, send your contribution,” said Trump in a campaign video.
“I think it could be a problem since Trump is the forerunner of the Republican party and the DA is pursuing a political agenda,” said Noah Ridgeway ’25 in regard to a possible Trump arrest. “They are trying to indict Trump on a technicality that the Biden Justice Department wasn’t worth investigating.”
As far as the current President, Joe Biden’s tactic seems to be one of silence.
“Don’t say a word,” is the advice from Democratic advisor Brad Bannon. “Let Trump steep in his own juices.”