Regardless of the legal merits of the case, something that is hotly debated in the United States, the decision of a grand jury in New York to authorize the opening of criminal proceedings against former President Donald Trump unleashed an unprecedented political storm in the country. that will test its institutions, the rule of law and the very foundations of which one of the most solid democracies in the world will operate until now.

(In context: Trump will travel to New York on Monday and appear before a judge on Tuesday)

While the specific details are still unknown, The former president will travel this Monday from Miami to New York to appear before the judge on Tuesday afternoon, CNN information.

Specifically, his appointment with the judge will be at 2:15 pm local time, which he is expected to attend after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg formally files charges against Trump and proceeds to arrest the former president ( unless it is given voluntarily).

(Keep reading: Stormy Daniels breaks her silence on imputing Donald Trump: ‘There will be death’)

Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, clarified that his client will not be handcuffed on the short journey between the prosecutor’s office and that of Judge Juan Manuel Merchán. He also specified that he will not plead guilty and has opted to go to trial.

It will be a historic moment in itself, never before in the almost 250 years since US independence was applied had a criminal file been opened against a president of the country.

Bragg, the sources say, has at least 30 charges ready for him associated with the payment of $130,000 during the 2016 election campaign to allegedly buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claims to have had sexual encounters with the former president, something which Trump denies.

(Also read: Stormy Daniels, one of the many women in Donald Trump’s scandals)

In case of being guilty, the crimes provide for a sentence of up to four years in prison.

Although there is still a lot of ground to cover, the topic could not be more explosive. Trump, who has already launched his candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections, asked his millions of followers to come out and protest what he called «a total abuse of power» orchestrated by the Democrats to deny him a return to the White House.

Washington, New York and other cities in the country are on high alert for the possibility of a repeat of the violent riots of January 6, 2021. when a mob of his supporters took over the Capitol to prevent the rise of Joe Biden to the presidency.

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a simple case

On paper, the case is rather simple and has its merits. In the final stretch of the 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, the news began to circulate that Daniels was offering different media and tabloids in the country her story about her relationship with Trump.

The Republican candidate had just been through a storm, after an Access Hollywood recording was released in which the mogul bragged about sexually harassing and abusing women and the revelation of the porn actress threatened to sink his aspirations. According to Michael Cohen, then his personal lawyer and a man he trusted, Trump will probably pay him that amount in exchange for his silence. Cohen, who is the main witness for the Prosecutor’s Office and has already been in jail for this same case, took the money out of his own pocket to hide the transaction. Then, after his victory in the elections, the tycoon returned the money in four payments that were camouflaged as representation expenses.

(You can read: The porn actress who could take Trump to jail and what weighs against him)

In New York state, that type of maneuver—lying when stating the purpose of a payment—is a misdemeanor offense that typically carries a financial penalty.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels.

But according to Bragg’s narrative — and this is speculation, as the specific charges are unknown — a federal crime was also committed since the payment to Daniels can expect an illegal donation to his campaign.

This is the point that complicates the matter, since there is very little background that gives weight to this legal theory and less at the level with which it seeks to point out the former president.

(Also read: The case of the former porn actress for which Trump will face criminal charges)

Norman Eisen, an election law attorney, says the payment was an illegal contribution given Trump’s benefit in a hotly contested campaign.

But the president’s lawyers, who do not deny the payments, say Trump was being extorted and paid to avoid public humiliation and protect his family.

There is no crime here. The law is being distorted to punish the former president.

“There is no crime here. The law is being distorted to punish the former president, ”says Joe Tacopina, one of his representatives.

Many, in fact, point to the case of former senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards, who in 2008 was involved in a similar scandal for trying to hide an extramarital affair and the payments that were obtained from his lover.

(You can read: Trump says that the charge is «political persecution and electoral interference»)

Edwards was brought to trial alleging that the payments, which were child support, were connected to the campaign. However, the jury was declared undecided and the politician ended up acquitted.

A New York Times editorial, published this week, also raised serious arguments about the viability of the case. According to the newspaper, the accusation has cracks and there is a probability that a judge will declare it insubsistent or limit it only to accounting lies. Which would be a major defeat for the prosecutor and equivalent to a slap on the hand for Trump.

But, equally, of unpredictable consequences. “Whether the charge is justified or not we are crossing a huge line in American legal history and politics,” says Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor and former top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. .

(Also: Third world? The strong reaction of Donald Trump’s son for imputation)

antecedent danger

Although US law does not shield former presidents from possible criminal charges once they leave power, by tradition and given the country’s political sensibilities, it is something that is reserved for extreme cases. Hence, for example, that Gerald Ford chose to pardon Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal or that no other case has prospered to date.

(Keep reading: The tangle of judicial processes that corner former President Donald Trump)

«Putting a former president of another party on trial is opening a Pandora’s box and there is a high risk of it being seen as a political vendetta,» says Goldsmith.

For this and other analysts, in addition, the case will set a precedent for the future. “It will not be strange, for example, that from now on, any fiscal state opens criminal proceedings against a former president. To put the case of Biden, I already see lawsuits cooking for not having secured the southern border or any other frivolity, ”says this analyst.

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In fact, one of the main criticisms of the Bragg process is that it is the «weakest» of all the cases that are open against Trump. Among them, one in Georgia for interfering in that state’s elections and another from the Justice Department for his role in the January 6 riots. And that they could sink or weaken from here on out.

Putting a former president of another party on trial is opening a Pandora’s box and runs a high risk of being seen as a political vendetta.

Eisen believes, on the contrary, that it is a transcendental case, since it shows that no one, not even a former president, is outside the law and that they must answer for their crimes, no matter how minor they seem.

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For this lawyer, Trump’s case is different from all his predecessors since he has spent years evading justice and crossing red lines. «Sooner or later this moment was going to come,» says Eisen.

But, there are those who think, precisely, that One of the reasons why Trump launched his candidacy for 2024 – and has remained relevant in the political universe – was to avoid trials against him and, eventually, prison.

In any case, the process opened by Bragg will have enormous political repercussions and, possibly, a profound destabilizing effect.

See our analysis: Will impeachment ruin Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign?

Will impeachment ruin Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign?Will impeachment ruin Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign? Live analysis with Erick Langer.

Stroke of luck?

In the short term, and this has already begun to be seen, the accusation ends up benefiting him in his electoral aspirations. The entire Republican party, almost without exception, closed ranks around the former president.

The fact that Bragg is a Democrat – prosecutors in the US are elected by popular vote – further feeds the narrative that justice is being used to persecute conservatives.

An idea that will be destroyed in the workhorse of both Trump and the Republicans. This added to the fact that the former president, whose future as a party candidate was in jeopardy due to the rise of other figures such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, surely now sees a clearer path to win the nomination.

(Also read: Imputation to Trump: they shield New York and Washington from possible protests)

Especially given the length of time legal proceedings take in the US. There is no doubt that the case will be more than alive during the primary elections, which will start in January and, probably, for the general ones in July 2024.

But, in politics nothing can be taken for granted. Just as the impeachment is an adrenaline shot for Trump and his campaign today, tomorrow it could weigh on him at the prospect of electing a candidate or a president who could end up in jail.

This is not to mention that what begins with their luck could further divide the country and even unleash acts of violence as severe or worse than those that were witnessed during the capture of the Capitol. For now, the only clear thing is that the United States, hand in hand with Bragg, is taking a leap into the void.

(Also: Joe Biden’s silence on Trump’s impeachment: ‘I have no comment’)

EL TIEMPO correspondent
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