Johnathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, offered testimony during the House Judiciary Committee's hearing in Washington on Dec. 4, 2019. (House Judiciary)
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley panned reports of the looming potential case against former President Donald Trump after the former commander-in-chief announced he may be arrested in the next week.
Alleged unnamed court sources have told multiple news outlets that Trump could be indicted in the near future, while Trump said via Truth Social that he expects to be arrested by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on Tuesday. Bragg’s office has not publicly confirmed reports that he may possibly indict the former president for allegedly misclassifying a $130,000 hush payment made to Stormy Daniels in 2016.
Trump has denied claims that he had an affair with Daniels in the early 2000s. However, unconfirmed reports alleged that a grand jury in New York has been empaneled and may be seeking an indictment of the former president.
But Turley said that based on those reports, the DA’s case against Trump “is legally pathetic” and “is struggling to twist state laws to effectively prosecute a federal case long ago rejected by the Justice Department against Trump.”
“In 2018 (yes, that is how long this theory has been around), I wrote how difficult such a federal case would be under existing election laws. Now, six years later, the same theory may be shoehorned into a state claim,” wrote Turley, who was a former expert witness for Trump’s first impeachment trial, for The Hill.
“While we still do not know the specific state charges in the anticipated indictment, the most-discussed would fall under Section 175 for falsifying business records, based on the claim that Trump used legal expenses to conceal the alleged hush-payments that were supposedly used to violate federal election laws,” Turley said. “While some legal experts have insisted such concealment is clearly a criminal matter that must be charged, they were conspicuously silent when Hillary Clinton faced a not-dissimilar campaign-finance allegation.
He noted that a Section 175 charge “would normally be a misdemeanor” and that the “only way to convert it into a Class E felony requires a showing that the ‘intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.’ That other crime would appear to be the federal election violations which the Justice Department previously declined to charge.”
Bragg’s office, meanwhile, could not prosecute the charge as a misdemeanor as it falls outside the two-year statute of limitations, Turley wrote. Instead, Bragg would have to pursue a felony charge.
“Prosecutors working under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., also reportedly rejected the viability of using a New York law to effectively charge a federal offense,” Turley noted. Bragg also previously expressed doubts about the Daniels case and shut it down when he took office several years ago, he said, adding that two lead prosecutors resigned at the time.
If Trump is indicted, it may require Trump to travel to the district attorney’s office in downtown New York to surrender. In white-collar cases, the defendant’s lawyers and prosecutors typically agree on a date and time, rather than arresting the person at home.
Trump would have his fingerprints and mugshot taken and would appear for arraignment in court. He would likely be released on his own recognizance and allowed to head home, legal analysts told Reuters.
Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told CNBC on Friday that Trump would surrender if charged. If Trump refused to come in voluntarily, prosecutors could seek to have him extradited from Florida, where he currently resides.
On Saturday, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that the former president has not been formally notified of any pending arrest. Both Cheung and Trump accused Bragg, a Democrat who received $1 million in campaign cash from a George Soros-linked organization, of targeting him for political gain and could try to seek dismissal of the charges on those grounds.
“There has been no notification, other than illegal leaks from the Justice Dept. and the DA’s office, to NBC and other fake news carriers, that the George Soros-funded Radical Left Democrat prosecutor in Manhattan has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level,” Cheung said. “President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system,” he added.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has not responded to a request for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.