Three-Minute Legal Talks: Covering All Four Trump Indictments
Spread across four jurisdictions, former President Donald Trump faces both state and federal indictments ranging from mishandling classified documents to election-related falsehoods. With one court date already set for March 2024, observers are beginning to question whether Trump will face jailtime if convicted, or if he would have the presidential power to pardon himself if reelected in 2024.
In three minutes, Jessica West, lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, covers the four indictments and answers questions arising from the charges.
Read the Transcript
Three-Minute Legal Talks: Can you help us sort out the pending criminal indictments against former President Trump?
Jessica West: Sure, there are four separate criminal cases all are indictments, meaning that the charges have been vetted by a grand jury. There are two federal indictments and then two indictments out of states, one out of New York and one out of Georgia.
With regards to the federal indictments, there's one in the District Court in Miami. That's the classified documents case. And, in fact, that indictment has recently been amended to add charges related to tampering with evidence for Mr. Trump's alleged direction of the destruction of tapes after a government subpoena. The second federal indictment is out of the District of Columbia. And It alleges four counts for what the indictment calls “pervasive and destabilizing lies” about election fraud.
The two state indictments, the first is out of New York — a New York State indictment — and that alleges a number of counts, maybe three dozen, for filing false business documents erroneously claiming that the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels were business expenses to his lawyer. And the fourth, the most recent state indictment, is out of Georgia, where Mr. Trump — along with 18 codefendants — is alleged to have participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy to falsify the results of the 2020 election.
TMLT: Could Mr. Trump go to prison?
JW: He could go to prison if he's convicted. And in fact, prison would be mandated in the Georgia case.
TMLT: Does Mr. Trump have immunity from any of these charges given that he is a former president?
JW: Immunity for acts in someone's capacity as a president exists, but these charges allege crimes that go beyond things considered to have been in the scope of the presidency. As in the facts underlying these indictments, Mr. Trump was not acting as a president but was acting either as a presidential candidate or as a private individual rather than acting on behalf of the presidency.
TMLT: Will any of these cases go to trial before the 2024 presidential election?
JW: Yes, it's likely that at least one of the cases will go to trial in the next 14 months. The federal case out of the District of Columbia in fact is set for trial March 4, 2024.
TMLT: If elected, could President Trump pardon himself from any crimes for which he is convicted?
JW: The president has broad legal authority to pardon a person convicted of a federal crime, but it's unclear whether a self-pardon is constitutional and constitutionally permissible. Many legal scholars believe that a self-pardon would be unconstitutional. In any regard, as for the state charges, the ones out of New York and Georgia, a president does not have pardon power over state criminal charges.