Trump Faces 34 Felony Counts in Historical Indictment

Janet Abrantes and Anjali Suva

On Apr. 4, former president Donald Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an alleged effort to cover up extramarital affairs ahead of the 2016 presidential election. At his first court appearance, Trump pleaded not guilty to all counts. The case against him makes him the first former sitting president to be indicted on criminal charges. 

The indictment centers around payments made to two women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels. According to witness testimony, business records, and a recorded conversation between Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump reimbursed Cohen by passing off the payment as legal fees, thus falsifying business records. Days before the 2016 presidential election, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to prevent news of an affair between her and the former president from leaking to the public. 

Trump also worked with tabloid executive David Pecker in a “catch and kill” operation — where a media outlet buys the rights to negative stories without intending to publish them — to suppress news of his alleged infidelity.  

While the charge of falsifying business records is a misdemeanor, it becomes a felony punishable by up to four years in prison when it is used to conceal a separate crime. This was the case for Trump. According to prosecutor Chris Conroy, Trump’s specific crimes were “undermining the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws.”

Taking place in the backdrop of the upcoming 2024 presidential election, the case has notable political implications. Trump has officially announced his candidacy for the Republican party nomination and has accused the case of being a continuation of a politically-motivated witch hunt. In a speech delivered after his court appearance, he criticized Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney bringing the charges, and vehemently denied claims of wrongdoing. 

“[Democrats] attacked me with an onslaught of fraudulent investigations, and now this massive election interference on a scale never seen before in our country with the radical-left George Soros-backed prosecutor Alvin Bragg of New York,” Trump said. 

Oxford students brought their own input to the news, commenting on the effect that the indictment would likely have on voters. 

“I think that Trump’s supporters will become more entrenched in their support for him and people who are in the middle or in between the two candidates will likely be pushed further from him,” senior Brian Phung said. 

In terms of what students would like to see as a result of the proceedings, one senior, Kristela Avendaño, hopes for a shift toward electing more reliable presidents.

“Let’s think about ASB elections. Do we elect people that have had multiple detentions, truancies, and an extremely bad track record? No, because [our decision] comes from faith that they will do the job. I would say the same thing should go for anyone we elect president,” Avendaño said. 

Although most interviewed seniors stated that the indictment would have little effect on their voting decisions, one student revealed how it shifted their perspective on electing candidates in the upcoming 2024 election. 

“Seeing the far-right radicalism that has been spotlighted in the media as a result of the indictment has urged me to take a more active role in looking for candidates and individuals who can bring the change I’d like to see. Though Joe Biden is a clear front-runner in the 2024 Democratic Primaries, I am hoping to use my vote and take a stand against the status quo,” said senior Freddy Netto.