Top Criminal Defense Attorney Talks Trump Trial
An unprecedented process is set to play out after a New York grand jury on Thursday indicted former President Donald Trump on charges related to the payment of hush money to former porn star Stormy Daniels, per reports.
Some have compared the case to that of 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Florida-based criminal defense lawyer Janet Johnson says there are key differences, but Trump’s best defense may be the same.
“It was deemed that [Edwards] did not do that in anticipation of running,” Johnson said. In this case, Trump’s own “fixer,” attorney Michael Cohen, provided evidence “saying this was in anticipation of his running, and she was paid to stay quiet so he could become president,” Johnson said.
“This would be sort of the ideal situation” for prosecutors, Johnson said. “You have a woman who will say I had an affair, I was paid money; there are lawyers who will testify, ‘yes, we helped pay the money’; and there’s a check with Donald Trump’s signature on it.”
But Johnson still thinks Trump’s best defense will be the same as Edwards’.
“To say, ‘this is a private matter between Stormy Daniels and myself. Yes, I obviously wrote her this check, my signature’s on it, but it wasn’t because I was afraid that something would come out in the election. And in fact, a lot of things came out in the election, and I still won, so why would I be afraid of this?’”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday it had contacted Trump’s lawyers to coordinate his surrender for arraignment on the indictment, which remains under seal, but he is unlikely to appear much in court, Johnson said.
”Most of the time his appearance will be waived, so it won’t be like the Gwenyth Paltrow trial where we’ll see him walk into the courtroom,” Johnson said. “He’s probably very rarely going to appear in person.”
Johnson also said the trial won’t impede Trump’s 2024 presidential ambitions, because it’s “probably going to be a pretty lengthy prosecution.”
“If he is convicted and he appeals that conviction, I mean this could take years,” Johnson said. “So he would likely still be able to run, and if he won, he would likely be able to be sworn in.”
TMX contributed to this story.