Trump indictment: What we know and what we don’t

  • President Trump's indictment has triggered a wave of speculation yet there are few facts
  • We know Trump could face jail time, but could also still run for president
  • We don't know what's in the indictment nor when it could be unsealed

(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump has become the first former U.S. president to be indicted. He’s facing criminal charges stemming from an alleged “hush money” payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

There are many questions still surrounding the unprecedented case. Here’s what we know — and what we don’t — about the indictment.

What is in the indictment?

That’s currently unclear.

An indictment is a legal document formally notifying a defendant of the charges they face. Indictments may be very detailed, with a lot of information on each charge, or they may be relatively sparse, with the prosecution verbally adding details during the arraignment.

The Trump indictment is currently sealed, so it’s impossible to say how much information it includes, including the number of counts and exact charges.

Indictments are typically sealed until arraignment, which is expected to happen on Tuesday. However, the DA could petition to unseal the indictment early, especially if Trump continues to leak information. A judge would have to sign off on the motion.

Sources indicate there are more than two dozen counts in the indictment.

When will the trial happen?

It could be some time before Trump actually goes to court. He’s expected to fight the charges and his lawyers will likely file a number of pre-trial motions to get the case dismissed.

The process of discovery, where the prosecution is required to hand evidence gathered during the investigation over to the defense, could also take some time to complete.

Given Trump’s fame, jury selection could also become a drawn-out process as attorneys attempt to put together a pool of of jurors who can be impartial when deciding the case.

Will there be a perp walk?

Probably not. Trump is expected to self-surrender, which could happen at either a police station or the district attorney’s office. It’s unlikely Trump will be handcuffed and there will be coordination between the Secret Service and law enforcement to ensure Trump remains protected throughout the process.

While he may not be cuffed in front of cameras, Trump will have to go through the same processing as other defendants, including getting fingerprinted and having a mug shot taken, though his lawyers have argued he is so recognizable there is no need for a mugshot. If one is taken, it’s not clear if it will be made public.

Will Trump be put in jail?

Even for defendants who turn themselves in, answering criminal charges in New York generally entails at least several hours of detention while being fingerprinted, photographed, and going through other procedures. That may include being placed in a holding area for that time.

That said, it’s unlikely Trump will be held prior to his trial. Once arraigned, he is likely to be released on his own recognizance.

Will Trump have to pay bail?

That’s up to a judge. New York’s bail laws only allow a judge to implement bail if a defendant is considered a flight risk. Given Trump’s fame and the fact that he’s actively campaigning for president, it would be difficult for him to remain a fugitive from law enforcement.

He does own his own jet, however, and a judge could order Trump to surrender his passport if there is concern he might try to flee.

Could a judge issue a gag order?

Yes, judges have discretion to issue gag orders for either party in a case. In criminal cases, gag orders may be used if it’s believed a defendant’s statements could taint a jury pool or be interpreted as threats against prosecutors. A gag order could also be extended to those whom the president hires to act on his behalf.

Ignoring a gag order could result in a fine or even detention, especially if there are repeated violations.

Could Trump face additional charges for his comments on social media?

Maybe. It’s a crime to threaten a prosecutor in New York, and Trump’s statements on social media have included a number of attacks on New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg, including an image of Trump holding a baseball bat next to a picture of Bragg’s head. Theoretically, prosecutors could add charges if they felt Trump’s post constituted a threat.

Will the trial be broadcast?

Once again, that’s up to the judge, who gets to determine whether cameras are allowed in the courtroom. Either way, the trial is going to be under a lot of media scrutiny.

Who is the judge overseeing the case?

Juan Merchan has been presiding over criminal felony trials since 2009. An immigrant from Colombia, Merchan grew up in Queens. He’s presided over a number of high-profile trials, including one involving the Trump Organization which resulted in a $1.6 after it was found guilty on 17 counts that centered around falsifying business records.

Trump has claimed Merchan is biased against him, based on that ruling, however his attorney has said his legal team doesn’t believe that’s the case.

Could Trump face jail time?

Yes, it’s a possibility. Based on what is currently known about potential charges, he could face up to four years in prison. But it’s also possible that, if found guilty, he could be given a sentence that doesn’t include any incarceration at all.

Can Trump still run for president?

Yes. There’s no rule that says someone with a felony charge or conviction can’t run for president. Even if Trump does get convicted and jailed, he could continue his efforts, though there’s no precedent for how a president would campaign or govern if incarcerated.

Trump’s campaign is already claiming to have raised $5 million since he was indicted.

It’s also possible that pre-trial proceedings will drag out long enough that a trial won’t even happen before the 2024 campaign hits full swing.

Will there be protests?

Maybe. Trump has called for his supporters to take to the streets and some of his supporters, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have also called for protests. It’s not clear if supporters will heed the call, though the New York City Police Department is preparing for possible unrest.

Will this affect other investigations Trump is facing?

Not necessarily. This case is just one of several investigations involving the former president. In Georgia, there is an investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn election results and Special Prosecutor Jack Smith is investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riots as well as looking into classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

If Trump is charged in any of those investigations, it could pose logistical challenges, though any federal case would typically supersede a local trial.

In addition to the criminal investigations, Trump is also facing a civil lawsuit in New York regarding his business practices and allegations that he fraudulently overvalued business assets. He is also facing two defamation lawsuits from author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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