After Donald Trump was accused by United States Justice Department of taking part in a felony in filings Friday by the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, as New York Magazine reported, Trump now faces the prospect of a criminal indictment on the very day he leaves office. That prediction came Sunday from Adam Schiff, the California congressional representative who is also the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
In court documents Friday filed in support of a sentencing recommendation for Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, the SDNY said that Trump — identified as “Individual-1” — ordered Cohen to make “hush money” payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold model Karen McDougal, as Inquisitr has reported. The payments were designed to silence the two women over extramarital sexual affairs they say that they had with Trump in 2006 and 2007.
Because those payments — which totaled $280,000 — were intended to influence the 2016 presidential election, the SDNY sentencing memo explains, they therefore become felony campaign finance violations.
“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the SDNY prosecutors wrote, as quoted by ABC News. “He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1.”
“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him,” Schiff told Face The Nation. “That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”
But Schiff said that there is also a strong possibility that Trump may evade jail time — because the next president could pardon him.
“We have been discussing the issue of pardons the president may offer to people or dangle in front of people,” Schiff said as quoted by Slate online. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road, as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”
Schiff specified that Trump would face indictment “on the day (he) leaves office” rather than before, due to the long-running debate over whether the current holder of the presidential office can actually be indicted or whether presidents are immune from prosecution, as the New York Times has reported.
While a Justice Department policy from the Watergate era in the early 1970s appears to hold that sitting presidents are shielded from indictment, the Times also discovered a little-known 1998 memo for Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton. That memo says that Clinton was indeed “subject to indictment and criminal prosecution,” though any term of imprisonment may have to wait until after a president leaves office.