Is hush money illegal? How an investigation into Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels payment could lead to a jail sentence

You may be wondering if “hush money” is actually illegal given former President Donald Trump’s claims he expects to be arrested in connection with such a scheme.

On Saturday, March 18, Donald Trump broke the news that he expects his imminent arrest. He did not explain how he had been informed of an alleged impending arrest and provided no evidence of how it was to take place.

“The leading Republican nominee and former President of the United States will be arrested Tuesday next week,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media platform Truth Social.

In that post, Trump didn’t elaborate on why he expects an arrest, but it was allegedly linked to New York City prosecutors’ investigation into the former president’s role in a reported hush-money scheme. But is hush money illegal and could it really lead to Trump being impeached? We’ve delved a bit into the law surrounding such systems.

Is hush money illegal?

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

No, hush money systems are not illegal. Despite talk of Donald Trump’s possible arrest in connection with a hush money scheme, the act itself is neither illegal nor a crime. It may be seen as a shady act but is common between organizations and individuals when not-so-friendly PR events come to light.

So if you know that hush money isn’t illegal, you might be wondering what allegations allegedly counter Trump. The former US President, who served from 2017 to 2021, may face charges of falsifying Trump Organization business records. It’s a crime in New York.

The alleged falsification of business records is conditional on a payment from the Trump Organization to Trump’s personal attorney at the time, Michael Cohen. Cohen made a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, just before the presidential election. Daniels and Trump reportedly had an affair a decade ago, which Trump continues to deny. The Trump Organization described the reimbursements as legal costs on its books. Trump previously denied knowledge of any such payment.

After an investigation into this hush-money system, Cohen was arrested. Cohen then admitted the payments were made to protect Trump ahead of the election. He was accused of violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). This law makes it illegal to make an unreported donation of more than $2,700 to a candidate in a general election.

Michael Cohen was charged and convicted in a criminal trial, not a civil trial, because he admitted to “knowingly and intentionally” violating campaign finance laws. He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to three years in prison.

How Trump’s alleged involvement could land him in jail

New York City Attorneys are considering whether to charge Donald Trump with falsifying the Trump Organization’s business records. This would be classified as a misdemeanor and not a felony.

However, there is another, more significant, record-falsification allegation that is being investigated. If it is proven in court that Trump falsified first-degree business records with intent to commit another crime or to assist or cover up another crime, in this case in violation of strict campaign finance laws, Trump faces a Class E felony This carries a minimum of one year and up to four years imprisonment. Those charges depend on whether such action was taken “knowingly and intentionally,” as in Cohen’s case. Prosecutors would have to prove Trump’s intent to commit this crime.

After Trump’s Truth Social post was published, a spokesman for the Republican candidate’s team said they had no news from the Manhattan DA’s office, which is leading the investigation. The Manhattan DA office also declined to comment on the matter after Truth Social’s post. No confirmatory charges are pending against the former president, with Trump’s rep also stating that he was informed of his alleged imminent arrest by media reports, not by law enforcement.

How the hush money investigation is developing

The New York prosecutors are given the impression that their investigations into the hush-money system are nearing their end. Prosecutors at Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Manhattan office recently asked Donald Trump to appear before the grand jury examining the case. In New York, potential defendants must be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury before charges are considered.

It’s likely we won’t have a verdict by the end of the month or by the end of spring. Another witness is expected to testify before the grand jury on Monday, March 20. But it is still unclear whether these are the last witnesses before the verdict.

Impeachment against Donald Trump would make him the first former US president and current presidential candidate to face criminal charges. There is no indication if this will affect his current presidential campaign. Trump has run for the presidency three times.

The former President remains under investigation on a number of charges of fraud and falsifying records related to the Mar-O-Lago documents.

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Emma Bowman

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