Indictment of former president Donald Trump


Reaction from some US citizens about Trump’s indictment. Credit to St. Louis Today

On March 30, 2023, former president Donald Trump was indicted on 34 charges of falsifying business records in the first degree. While other presidents have faced legal challenges in the past, Trump is the only president, current or former, to ever be formally indicted on criminal charges.

The indictment was carried out by the district attorney’s office of Manhattan, and it is the culmination of a nearly five-year investigation. This comes just months after the former president announced his bid for the 2024 presidential election, and it has sparked several questions about his future in politics. 

One of these is whether or not he should be allowed to run for office again if convicted. The Constitution only requires that presidential candidates be natural-born citizens of the United States, at least 35 years of age, and residents of the United States for a minimum of 14 years. There is no mention of criminal charges disqualifying a citizen from running as president, and students and faculty around Westminster seem to agree that being a convicted felon should not impede your ability to run for office.

“It depends,” said Upper School United States history teacher Christine Chen.  “Ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide. Presumably, it would be pretty hard for a convicted felon to get voted into office.” 

Junior Hillis Kopecky, a leader of the Young Conservatives Club, shared a similar viewpoint. 

“If the Constitution states they are allowed to run for office, then I am not in the position to oppose it. I believe people can change.” 

A Young Democrats leader, senior Giulia Pacifici, has some predictions on the verdict the court will make. 

“I doubt he’s going to be behind bars, he’s probably going to make bail, no matter what it is. He might get house arrest.”

President Trump is being indicted for falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony punishable by a maximum of four years in prison for each charge with no mandatory minimum sentence. This means that the former president could face 136 years behind bars, although many speculate that he will not go to prison.

“I don’t think he’ll face any jail time.” Chen went on to say. “For this particular indictment, I don’t think the case is super clear-cut, so I think that there is enough nuance there that a good lawyer will be able to downplay whatever consequences befall Trump. Maybe he pays a fine or some other consequence, but I don’t see him going to jail.” 

“I don’t believe being in political office should give you immunity from the law,” said Kopecky. “That being said, sadly due to his fame, I’m sure there will be some leniency regarding sentencing.”  

This is not the first time that Trump has been under media scrutiny for a scandal. In December 2019, he was subject to an impeachment trial where he was then acquitted. In January of 2021, he was impeached for the second time, making him the only president to be impeached twice in one term, though he was ultimately acquitted then as well. Due to his numerous scandals, some believe that his indictment will be just one of many. 

“I think there are bigger indictments likely to come, and those will be the ones that get more backing for potential jail time, they are bigger crimes,” said Chen. “This indictment is based on this New York law that’s not been challenged in court before because it is a federal crime, but he’s being charged at the state level.” 

Even though there could be future indictments for Trump, these charges, coupled with being the first president ever to be indicted for a crime, could jeopardize his 2024 campaign bid. 

Kopecky had mixed feelings on how this could impact Trump’s reelection campaign. 

I think it could help and hurt – the sect of people he is catering toward gets more fuel for the whole ‘World Against Trump’ idea with this trial, however many moderate Republicans will not vote for him. I didn’t think he would win before this situation, and I certainly don’t think he has much of a chance now.” 

“I think that he has such a cult following that whether or not he is behind bars, he might still get the Republican nomination,” said Pacifici. 

According to the New York Times, the trial is not expected to start until next year at the earliest, and next November is also when the presidential election will take place. This could impact Trump’s ability to go on the campaign trail, which could ultimately impact his ability to win the next election. 

“It could hinder his campaign only in the sense that he’ll have to go court somedays when he’d rather be out on the campaign trail,” Chen said, “but I think he has a pretty fanatical base that he’ll be able to leverage his time in court as something that will drive up the anger.” 

The former president is being indicted on 34 separate charges of falsifying business records. While this seems like a lot, it is a common tactic that prosecutors use in high-profile cases in order to maximize the effect they can get out of the public.

“I think that in this case, it is by the books,” said Pacifici. “I don’t think it’s exaggerated. I think that the news coverage of it has been overhyped, and I think people are really freaking out, but I don’t think the charges themselves are exaggerated.”

The outcome of this indictment will not be known for many months as both sides prepare to go to trial, but its outcome could very well impact the former president’s 2024 campaign.

Edited by Sophia Cunningham