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Alex Mormorunni

On Feb. 13, a Georgia special purpose grand jury released a report regarding their investigation into possible election interference carried out by Donald Trump and his allies following the 2020 election. The report indicated that perjury charges are likely to be brought against multiple witnesses in the case. The released document did not describe any charges to be brought against Mr. Trump or his team. However, the extensive redactions in the report, and statements made by the district attorney regarding the case indicate that indictments may soon be brought against Trump. Georgia is just one facet of a three-pronged legal advance against the former president. The second prong comes from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, presently investigating hush money payments allegedly made by the former president to porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump was romantically involved. The evidence in this case is already in front of a grand jury. The third threat Trump faces comes from special counsel Jack Smith, appointed by the Justice Department to look into possible interference “with the lawful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election”. While each case is developing differently, some moving more slowly than others, all appear to be nearing charging decisions.

Following his loss in the 2020 presidential election, Trump called Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and stated, “I need 11,000 votes”, calling on Raffensperger to “find” them. This phone call prompted the creation of a special purpose grand jury to investigate this “possible attempts to disrupt” Georgia’s lawful election results. While the special grand jury report did not indicate indictments against Trump, it did state that a “majority of the Grand Jury believes that perjury may have been committed” by multiple testifying witnesses in the case. Large parts of the report were redacted so as to be, “mindful of future defendants rights”, Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in charge of the special grand jury stated. Willis was referring to the right to due process under law, which indicates that legal investigation will continue for some witnesses as a continuation of the trial is what would necessitate continued due process protection. Were indictments brought, the case would come before a grand jury where witnesses could be tried for perjury and possibly, as some legal experts believe, Trump could be tried for the felony charge of first-degree solicitation to commit election fraud.

While the Georgia case appears to be moving forward effectively, Jack Smith’s special counsel investigation has been delayed by a clever legal argument by former Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyers. The special counsel, tasked with investigating Donald Trump’s involvement in the January 6th insurrection, issued a subpoena to Pence two weeks ago. Pence’s team challenged the subpoena, citing Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution – the “speech-and-debate” clause. This clause asserts that “Senators and Representatives” shall be “privileged from Arrest” for “any Speech or Debate” made while holding their office, and crucially in this instance, that  “they shall not be questioned in any other Place”. Pence argues that, owing to his role as President of the Senate during the events of Jan. 6, his actions fall under the protections of Article 1, Section 6, and therefore cannot legally be brought to testify. To testify to a grand jury, Pence argues, would be to question him “in any other Place”. Donald Trump avoided testifying before the January 6th committee by arguing that his role fell under “executive privilege”. This clashes with Pence’s claim that, as President of the Senate, he worked entirely within the legislative branch. Whether his argument  holds firm will soon be seen. In any case, the special counsel will move forward with its investigation, and could bring serious criminal charges against Trump should substantial evidence be found of interference with the peaceful transfer of power. 

In the Stormy Daniels case, the Manhattan District Attorney is currently presenting evidence regarding Trump’s alleged hush money payments. “If they actually are presenting witnesses” stated a former Manhattan District Attorney prosecutor, then “this is real. They’re going for it.” The charges associated with such an indictment may include intent to defraud and falsifying business records. These charges can carry a jail sentence of up to one year, or up to four years, depending on whether the charge is categorized as a misdemeanor or felony. While verdicts remain distant, the multitude of cases against Donald Trump are all progressing rapidly, and the seriousness of the charges they bear is becoming increasingly evident.