Donald Trump has been indicted on 34 counts of falsification of business records, making him the first former president in US history to face the prospect of a criminal trial.
These are felony charges, which denote serious crimes – ones that could include prison time if a maximum sentence was given.
The charges all arise from Trump’s alleged reimbursement over the course of 11 months of “Lawyer A” for a $130,000 payment to “Woman 2”, who was shopping a story about an alleged affair she had with Trump in the days before the 2016 presidential election.
Although not identified, the facts would indicate that Lawyer A is former president’s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, while Woman 2 is adult film star Stormy Daniels.
The indictment alleges that Trump falsified cheque records and ledger entries to make it appear that those payments were for “legal fees” and not reimbursements.
It also alleges that the total amount provided to Lawyer A was in excess of the amount he paid Woman 2 in order to compensate for income-tax payments.
The charge of business record falsification is typically a lesser crime – a misdemeanor – but in this case the district attorney’s office elevated the charges to a more serious felony level because, it said, Trump intended to cover up the felony federal campaign finance crime to which Lawyer A pleaded guilty in August 2018.
The indictment’s Statement of Facts provides further background information about what it called Trump’s “unlawful scheme” to prevent damaging information from being revealed about him in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
It provided two other instances of payments made on Trump’s behalf, by the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper to a doorman who alleged he knew of an illegitimate child Trump fathered and to Woman 1, who evidence suggests is Playboy model Karen McDougal.
“Ultimately,” the statement reads, “other participants in the scheme admitted that the payoffs were unlawful.”
Neither of these instances led to criminal charges against Trump, however.
The indictment is solely targeted toward the hush-money payment to Woman 2.