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Trump on trial


WORLD Radio - Trump on trial

Four co-defendants get plea deals in Georgia case while former President Donald Trump maintains his innocence

Donald Trump Jr. and Lawyer Alina Habba (L) sit in the courtroom for the fraud trial of the Trump Organization in New York City. Getty Images/Photo by Mike Segar/POOL/AFP

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 2nd day of November, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Both 2024 Presidential front-runners are currently facing a catalog of misconduct allegations. This morning an update on Donald Trump’s legal calendar.

Since this Spring, the former president has been indicted on a total of 91 felony charges in four criminal cases. The trials in those cases are coming up soon, and several of them will coincide with state primary elections early next year.

BUTLER: Meanwhile, a trial is underway in a civil case in New York involving alleged business fraud. Trump has been at odds with the judge in that case, Arthur Engoron, who has issued several gag orders against the former president.

Joining us now to talk about these cases is WORLD’s Washington Bureau intern, Clara York.

BROWN: Clara, good morning.

CLARA YORK, REPORTER: Good morning! Thank you for having me.

BROWN: Well let’s start with a refresher on the cases. Where are those four criminal trials going to take place and when are they happening in relation to primary elections and caucuses?

YORK: Yeah, the first case is looming over Trump right now. It's set to be in Georgia, but there's no court date currently. Trump has been accused of racketeering for his actions and calling Georgia Secretary of State and asking him to find the number of votes needed to tip the scales in his favor. Then we have a case in Washington, D.C. set for March 4. That's over a federal election results, interference and charges relating to the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6, that is the day before Super Tuesday on March 5, when 15 states hold primary elections. So that's a pretty big deal when it comes to the election cycle. And then right on the heels of that we have the New York hush money case, which is set for March 25. Trump has been charged with falsifying business records over money paid to cover up extramarital affairs. And then finally we have the Florida classified documents case set to begin may 20, over alleged improper storage of classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

BROWN: Well, the civil case concerning alleged fraud on financial statements is underway in New York City. How is the trial going for Trump?

YORK: Well, Judge Arthur Engoron issued a gag order to prevent Trump from intimidating or threatening his staff. And he issued that in response to a post from Trump calling the law clerk who sits to the right of the judge a partisan Democrat. And then Trump was fined $5,000.0 two weeks ago because the post went out in the campaign email and was left on the Trump website even after the gag order. But he got into hot water again after testifying last week, when he talked to reporters during a break. Audio here from C-SPAN.

TRUMP: The judge is a very partisan judge with a person who's very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.

Judge Engoron interprets Trump's reference to a partisan person sitting next to the judge as another reference to the law clerk, although Trump claims he was talking about witness for the prosecution, Michael Cohen. Nonetheless, Trump was fined $10,000. Judge Engoron has threatened jail or contempt of court for further violations.

BROWN: Clara we've heard a lot recently about plea deals in Trump's Georgia trial. How many co-defendants have pleaded guilty?

YORK: Well, in the Georgia case, there are 19 co-defendants, including Trump, and four of them have entered plea agreements requiring them to testify truthfully in the trial, among other things. First, there was a bail bondsman, and the other three are attorneys, most recently, Attorney Jenna Ellis, who pleaded guilty last Tuesday to aiding and abetting false statements and writings in Georgia. And she said in a tearful statement that she relied on information from other lawyers and failed to verify things herself. Here's some audio from the Associated Press:

ELLIS: I believe in and I value election integrity. If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post election challenges.

YORK: And then two other former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesbro pleaded guilty two weeks ago, they both will have to pay a monetary fine and write an apology letter to the state of Georgia, in addition to promising to testify.

BROWN: Any updates, Clara from the other cases?

YORK: Well, from the March 25 hush money case in New York and the May 20 classified documents case in Florida, we don't have a lot of updates. But for the D.C. case set for March 4, the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reportedly has immunity and has testified before the grand jury several times. Trump doesn't buy it.

TRUMP: I've spoken to Mark Meadows many many times over the years and he strongly believed the election was rigged.

But former New Jersey governor and prosecutor Chris Christie says Trump should take this development more seriously. Here he is on CNN last week.

CHRISTIE: And Mark Meadows was as you know, Wolf [Blitzer], Donald Trump's shadow the entire time he was Chief of Staff. He will know every conversation, every lie, every illegal action.

Trump's response to all five trials has been to maintain that he's innocent and to competently project that he's going to win. He's painted all charges as political theater.

TRUMP: There shouldn’t be a trial. There shouldn't be a trial. It’s called election interference. There should not be a trial.

BROWN: Alright, last question here. Clara. We mentioned earlier that Trump faces 91 felony charges across these cases. Now even if he gets acquitted on some of the charges, there is a chance he'll be found guilty and sentenced on some of them. What's the range of penalties we're talking about for potential sentencing?

YORK: Well, there's a really wide range of penalties and it's hard to predict where they may fall because judges have a lot of discretion in sentencing. For example, Politico estimated that for the New York hush money payments where Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, that might be a maximum of four years in prison. But compare that to the Washington DC election case. If Trump were convicted of two counts of obstructing an official proceeding, that could be a maximum of 20 years in prison, and the maximum sentencing for that entire case alone would be 35 years. The thing is, most of these don't have mandatory sentencing and could be substituted with financial penalties. So at the end of the day, it's kind of like trying to do math on some kind of hypothetical calculator where every button represents several different numbers.

BROWN: That's not my kind of calculator, Clara. Clara York is an intern with WORLD’s Washington bureau. Thank you, Clara.

YORK: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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