Will Donald Trump Be Arrested? Everything to Know About His Possible Indictment in Stormy Daniels Case
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Should Donald Trump get indicted, it will mark the first time in history a former president has been charged with a crime.
In a post shared to his own network Truth Social on March 18, the politician claimed that his indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney is imminent, suggesting that he may be arrested as early as Tuesday this week.
The investigation involves an alleged $130,000 "hush money" payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels while he was a presidential candidate in 2016. Trump said in the post that he could soon face possible criminal charges relating to the allegation, in reference to reports from various outlets, including the Associated Press and CBS.
"Illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorney's office ... indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven ... the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week," wrote Trump (in reference to himself) on the site over the weekend.
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In addition to his claim, Trump — who is running for president in 2024 — called (in all capital letters) for followers to "protest, take our nation back."
Though Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office is leading the criminal investigation, has not publicly responded to Trump's claims, several of Trump's spokespersons — including Joseph Tacopina, his lawyer — have released statements on behalf of Trump.
The D.A.'s office previously invited Trump to testify before the grand jury as part of its criminal investigation into his alleged role in the hush money payment, though Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels and has condemned the investigation.
Here's everything to know about Trump's ongoing criminal investigation, including what could happen if he is indicted.
Who is Stormy Daniels?
Daniels (née Stephanie Clifford) is an adult film star and currently the host of OUTtv's For the Love of DILFs. She gained notoriety for detailing her multiple alleged sexual encounters with Trump in a shelved 2011 interview with In Touch magazine.
Daniels told the outlet that the then-real estate mogul-turned reality star allegedly invited her to his hotel room for dinner after meeting at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006. She claimed she and Trump had "textbook generic" sex that night, and had several more sexual encounters in the months that followed.
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The alleged sexual encounter supposedly took place less than four months after Trump's wife and former-First Lady Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. After the Wall Street Journal reported that money might have been exchanged to keep Daniels from making her story public, the In Touch interview came to light in full.
Since then, the alleged extramarital affair and illegal payments are part of a years-long saga involving various players, in addition to Trump and Daniels.
Who is Michael Cohen and how is he involved?
Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen is Trump's former personal attorney and a key witness in the case investigating the alleged hush money paid to the adult film personality. That is because Cohen admitted to helping arrange the payment to Daniels (and former Playboy model Karen McDougal) and pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations in August 2018.
Trump and Cohen initially denied the allegations; prior to Cohen pleading guilty, he told The New York Times that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket as a "private transaction" in 2016. He said Trump had not reimbursed him.
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Trump has since admitted he authorized the $130,000 payment, but has continued to deny the underlying claims that the two had an affair or that the payment was in any way connected to his campaign. (The WSJ reported that the hush money payment was arranged to Daniels a month before the 2016 election so she'd keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter.)
"Mr. Trump's business concealed the true purpose of the payments, the filing said, by recording them as having been for a legal retainer that did not exist," reported the New York Times, citing a 2018 federal court filing in Cohen's case.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion and campaign finance crimes in connection with the payment to Daniels and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was also disbarred. Meanwhile, Daniels lost a defamation lawsuit against Trump after he denied her claims.
What charges could Donald Trump face if indicted?
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Trump could face charges for falsifying business records when he allegedly reimbursed his then-personal attorney Cohen for paying off Daniels. "The hush-money deal, allegedly crafted weeks before his presidential win, could also put Trump in jeopardy of violating campaign finance laws," Time reports.
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Will Donald Trump get arrested?
Brandon Bell/Getty Images Donald Trump
The components of the investigation create a complicated case that is not clear-cut. While hush money schemes are not illegal, the record for Trump's reimbursement to Cohen says it was for legal fees, which would be falsifying business records. This is a misdemeanor — a criminal offense — in New York.
Furthermore, prosecutors could potentially claim that the motivation behind Trump's alleged attempt at hiding his payments to Daniels was fueled by not wanting voters to know he had an affair with her. "Covering up a crime by falsifying records would be a felony, which is a more serious charge," reported the BBC.
There have been several failed attempts to charge politicians with crossing the line between campaign finance and personal spending — and according to Catherine Christian (former financial prosecutor for the N.Y.C. D.A.), this case is "going to be tough."
Despite Trump's claims on Truth Social that his arrest is expected on March 21, D.A. Bragg is the only person who can decide whether an indictment will be announced. He set up a grand jury and is scheduled to meet on March 20 in a Lower Manhattan court to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue charges in a case.
Robert Costello, Cohen's former legal advisor, is expected to testify before the New York grand jury on March 20 at the request of Trump's lawyers. The New York Times was the first to report the news, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
Joseph Tacopina, previously spoke with CNBC and said that Trump will surrender to face criminal charges, should he be indicted. "[He] will follow normal procedures if it gets to that point," Tacopina told the outlet on March 17.
This includes being booked into jail, in addition to getting his fingerprint and a mugshot taken.
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What sentence could Donald Trump receive if convicted?
While it's still too early for a judge to determine Trump's sentence if convicted, prison time is a possibility. "The charge of falsifying business records in the first degree is a low-level felony carrying up to four years in prison," NBC News reports.
RELATED: What to Know About Trump's Alleged Affair with Porn Star Stormy Daniels
Can Donald Trump run for President of the United States if arrested?
Joe Raedle/Getty Images Donald Trump
Absence of a criminal record is not listed in the U.S. Constitution as a qualification for presidency. It states that those considering candidacy are required to be a natural-born citizen of the U.S. who are at least 35 years old and have been a resident of the country for 14 years.
Therefore, Trump — who is is actively seeking the Republican nomination for the White House in the 2024 presidential election — could still be elected president, regardless of whether he is criminally indicted.
"Some people are surprised to learn that there's no constitutional bar on a felon running for president, but there's no such bar," said Kate Shaw, ABC News legal analyst and professor at Cardozo School of Law.
As for whether Trump has plans to stay in the presidential race even if he were to be criminally indicted? "Absolutely," he said at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in early March.
"I wouldn't even think about leaving," Trump told reporters ahead of his speech. "Probably it will enhance my numbers."