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Details of Trump’s indictment: What's next?

The 16-page indictment lists each of the alleged false business records as a separate count, with no mention of the potential crimes.
Details of Trump’s indictment: What's next?
Posted at 6:40 AM, Apr 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-06 06:40:27-04

Thirty-four felony counts are all wrapped up in the first-ever indictmentof a former U.S. president. 

"Thirty-four false statements made to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said during a press conference shortly after Donald Trump was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday. 

Bragg is alleging that former President Trump falsified business records to cover up "hush money" payments to help his 2016 election campaign. 

The 16-page indictment lists each of the alleged false business records as a separate count, with no mention of the potential crimes the entries were intended to mask. 

But more details are revealed in the indictment's companion document, the "statement of facts." 

Bragg claims Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair with Trump, which he denies. 

Bragg says Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments and wrote them off as legal fees. 

What's more, Bragg accuses Trump of orchestrating a "catch and kill" scheme, meeting with the publishers of the "National Enquirer" to kill negative stories about Trump before the 2016 election. 

SEE MORE: Lawmakers react to Trump's felony indictment

Others, like Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a Trump Tower doorman, were also kept quiet. 

Paying to keep stories out of the press isn't illegal, but Bragg says these payments were a cover-up for at least three other crimes, which he says is a felony in the state of New York. 

Why not list them in the indictment? During his press conference, Bragg said state law doesn't require him to. 

"You know, clearly, the indictment doesn't have to state what the other crime is, but you have to prove what the other crime is," said Michael Sotto, a former prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney's office. 

Sotto said Bragg and his team are tasked with proving three theories: 

Violations of state election law, mischaracterization of payments on tax forms, and federal campaign finance violations, which Bragg has no power to prosecute. 

"They're not saying that there was any sort of tax evasion here. And with regard to the campaign finance violations, the federal law absolutely preempts a state from prosecuting election law-related crimes with regard to a federal office," Sotto said. "So there's a preemption issue there. And then there's certainly the issue that there's no appellate authority that you can bring a false business records in the first-degree case based on raising the misdemeanor to a felony on a federal offense." 

Trump will have to wait until December for his next in-person hearing, setting up a potential trial in January, in the heart of the Republican nominating process. 

But most legal experts believe Bragg's indictment of Trump is "novel," which is code for saying there's not a lot of legal precedent. 

Meaning Bragg will rely on a largely untested legal theory to convict a former president.