NEW YORK (Caasimada Online) – As the country anticipates a possible historic indictment of former President Donald Trump, a New York grand jury failed to convene as expected on Wednesday.
This delay has pushed back the decision, potentially into next week, and added a new twist to the drama surrounding the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels.
The prospect of Trump being indicted has been steadily building, especially after the former president announced he was expecting to be arrested.
In response, New York City has been on high alert for days, with barricades outside Trump Tower and a strong police presence.
However, the expected grand jury session was called off, and unnamed law enforcement officials reported to multiple US outlets without providing a reason. According to The New York Times, such interruptions are not unusual.
The jury panel, which typically meets on Thursdays, may not gather again this week, Insider cited one source as saying. This means the earliest a decision could be reached is Monday.
If the panel eventually votes to indict, 76-year-old Trump would become the first former or sitting president ever to be charged with a crime.
This unprecedented move could significantly impact the 2024 election campaign, in which Trump is running to regain office.
It would also raise the possibility of a former world leader being arrested, booked, fingerprinted, and potentially handcuffed.
Despite the potential spectacle, The Times reported that Trump favors the idea of being paraded in front of cameras by law enforcement, a tactic known as a “perp walk.”
On the other hand, Prosecutor Alvin Bragg likely wants to avoid any such spectacle that could provoke Trump’s base.
The grand jury and the hush money case
Bragg formed the grand jury in January after investigating the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in 2016.
Grand juries operate behind closed doors to prevent perjury or witness tampering before trials, making it nearly impossible to follow their proceedings.
A spokesperson for Bragg informed AFP that she couldn’t comment “on grand jury matters.”
Even after the panel decides, it is unclear when Bragg would announce any charges.
Legal experts suggest it could take some time before Trump, currently at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, is arraigned before a Manhattan Criminal Court judge.
The payment to Daniels was made just weeks before the 2016 election, allegedly to prevent her from going public about an affair she claims she had with Trump years prior. Trump denies the affair and has labeled the inquiry a “witch hunt.”
Trump’s former lawyer and the Legal implications
Trump’s ex-lawyer-turned-adversary Michael Cohen, who testified before the grand jury, states that he made the payment on Trump’s behalf and was later reimbursed.
If not adequately accounted for, this payment could result in a misdemeanor charge for falsifying business records.
The charge could be elevated to a felony if the false accounting was intended to cover up another crime, such as a campaign finance violation, which carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.
Analysts argue that this legal theory is untested and challenging to prove in court, making jail time uncertain.
The long road ahead
An indictment would initiate a lengthy process that could last several months or longer. As the case moves toward jury selection, it would face numerous legal challenges and pose a security headache for Secret Service agents protecting Trump.
While Trump has called for demonstrations if he is charged, protests thus far have been small and muted, despite fears of unrest akin to January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol. New York police have set up barricades outside the courthouse and Trump Tower.
Trump is facing multiple criminal investigations at the state and federal level over possible wrongdoing, many of which are more serious than the Manhattan case.
These include his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia, handling classified documents, and potential involvement in the January 6 rioting.
Observers are divided on the implications of an indictment for Trump’s 2024 chances. Some believe it could harm his prospects, while others argue it might bolster his support among his base.
As the nation awaits the grand jury’s decision, the outcome could send shockwaves through the political landscape and set a historical precedent.