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Trump Arrested and Arraigned: My Breakdown
This is what the rule of law looks like...
Hi — This is an extra edition of my newsletter for you, as we continue to cover the historic, unprecedented arraignment of a former President on MSNBC…
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Donald Trump was arraigned as a criminal defendant today.
The hearing was longer and more disturbing than the vast majority of arraignments, primarily because of his recent conduct.
For the first time, the nation can see Manhattan D.A. Bragg’s charges — 34 of them — and what lawyers call the “theory of the case.” (More details and evidence will follow.) Here’s what we know:
The core of the case is about an election plot — lies and fraud in the service of misleading voters and corrupting the 2016 election.
The technical charges are about fraud — falsifying business records.
Those charges sit on a wider story of deceit and cover-ups (a “Sex, Lies and Videotape” story).
The D.A. argues they are felonies because they are enhanced by Trump’s effort to commit other crimes (campaign laws and tax lies, essentially).
Are these charges a big deal? Do people get in trouble for this? Yes.
Trump’s former CFO Allen Weisselberg is in jail right now for the same charge of falsifying business records.
Trump’s entire company was convicted of related fraud. And while these crimes are not typically punished on par with violent crime, the charge can be punishable by up to one year in prison, and potentially several years when enhanced to a felony. So this poses real peril for Trump if the charges “stick,” and lead to a trial. (His lawyers have every right to file motions attacking the case or trying to get counts dismissed.)
How did we get here?
From Trump allies to some pundits and legal commentators, there seems to be a common claim that this case “popped up,” or is “late,” or seems somehow odd or minor compared to other Trump allegations (in other jurisdictions).
Yet a passing knowledge of Trump’s public life, in business and politics, shows an obvious, criminal road to today. To put it as simply as possible, here’s how I wrote it out today online while watching the court proceedings:
Many convictions paved the way for these charges. Trump is presumed innocent, but some of the most damning evidence and “pattern” comes from some of his longtime aides and their convicted crimes.
There’s much more to cover about this case — check out MSNBC tonight and The Beat on Wednesday — including the prosecutors’ rebukes of Trump’s efforts to abuse threats and possible violence. For now, we can stay fair and focused as we move forward.
And if you’d like to hear what I had to say about all of it on MSNBC this evening, you can click on this link.