By Adanya Day
In its 247-year history, the United States had never seen a former president or a standing president be indicted. That all changed this year, when former President Donald J. Trump was indicted in four criminal cases in four different states with over 90 felony counts in total.
The charges include falsifying business records, withholding classified documents, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and election interference.
Despite all four cases being felony state cases, some are stronger than others, according to Caleb Husmann, a political science professor at William Peace University.
“We got the one in Georgia. I think it’s the strongest. You have the one in New York. I think it’s the weakest,” says Husmann.“You have the federal one about holding on to documents that’s not weak but it isn’t unprecedented.”
In its totality these cases will have lasting effects on the accountability of other political figures, but let’s start where these indictments all started: Jan. 6, 2021.
Two months following the defeat of Trump in the 2020 election, Trump and his advisers spread false allegations of voter fraud and pressured Republican officials to undermine the results, Politico and other news outlets have reported.
This eventually culminated to form a storm that no meteorologist could have predicted when thousands of Trump supporters across the nation stormed the Capitol to oppose the transition of power.
Several federal prosecutors would charge the former president with four crimes that start with his attempt to disrupt the usually peaceful transition of power within the presidency. On Aug. 1, 2023 a Washington grand jury approved the indictment and charged Trump with two felony counts of obstructing an official proceeding, one felony count of conspiracy against rights, and one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The Georgia case carries on from what started the Washington D.C one: voter fraud. In Georgia is where Trump was most aggressive with this claim.
According to Politico, the day following the Jan. 6 riots Trump called Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, to locate the 11,780 votes he would have needed to win.
The case was opened in February, 2021 and Trump would charged on: a singular count that violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by public officer, a singular count of conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery, two counts of false statements and writings, two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings, a singular count of filing false documents, and a singular count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents.
In this particular case Trump is caught on record saying these things which according to Husmann is the strongest case due to that fact.
“Nobody else tried to interfere with an election by telling a Secretary of State to find 10,000 votes,” says Husmann, “It’s the strongest case based on the data and based on the fact that it is a unique violation versus the other things that he’s done.”
When the former president left the White House in January 2021, he was accused of taking classified documents, some of which could threaten national security. Many of these documents were found around the expanse of Mar-a-Lago. Throughout this process of finding and securing these documents the former President reportedly obstructed attempts to retrieve these documents repeatedly according to Politico.
The trial is set to occur on May 30, 2023 with the former president being charged with 32 felony counts of willful retention of national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, 6 felony counts of obstruction-related crimes, and 2 felony counts of false statements.
According to Husmann,this particular case mirrors that of the Hillary Clinton case involving her use of a personal email server for all correspondence both work and personal while Secretary of State.
“He objectively is guilty. There’s pictures of it. Right. But like other people have done similar,” says Husmann. “I’m also not sure that that’s that different from what Hillary did with the servers. And so you’re gonna just naturally look hypocritical…It’s gonna inherently look political because you didn’t bring it against all these other political figures that did the same thing.”
The final case is that of Trump lying about records in order to pay off Stormy Daniels, an adult actress. Allegedly, she was paid $130,000 in October 2016. These payouts were apparently disguised as corporate legal expenses.
On April 4, 2023 he was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. A trial date is set for March 25, 2024.
What does this mean for the future?
As these cases begin to come to a close, we can begin to see how they may reshape the political environment of America. Husmann believes that there still is a good chance that the 2024 Presidential election may see both Donald Trump and Joe Biden going up against each other again.
Should this occur, we may possibly see a Presidential election where one of the nominees is in prison. Husmann also notes that if Trump were to win the election, he would be unable to pardon himself as president due to these being state cases.
“If it is proven in a court of law that the former President guilty of the crimes he is accused of then I believe he should be punished for those crimes,” says Maddie Bevens, a junior at Peace. “The presidential election should not be a popularity contest, but rather choosing what policies are best for this country and its people.”