Charges against Trump are 'a very serious matter,' lawyer says

Lawyer Norm Eisen told Yahoo News the Manhattan charges against Trump represent a "serious ... democracy crime."

Former President Donald Trump arrives at court in Manhattan on April 4, 2023, surrounded by uniformed police officers.
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Donald Trump was arraigned Tuesday on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 hush money payment to an adult-film star — a case that many legal experts had, before the indictment was unsealed, brushed off as unsubstantial.

But lawyer Norm Eisen, who spoke to Yahoo News on Monday, made the argument that the charges follow a pattern and that they should not be discounted.

“I think in some ways it is as serious a democracy crime as in Georgia, as in the federal investigations of Jan. 6 and the Mar-a-Lago classified documents,” Eisen said, referring to several of the other ongoing investigations into Trump.

“That’s because the one election that might actually have been altered by Trump’s allegedly illegal interference was the 2016 contest.”

The 2016 election between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, in which Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes but lost the Electoral College tally by a margin of 304-227, was in part decided in three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump’s margin of victory across those three swing states was fewer than 80,000 votes.

Eisen believes that, had it broken during the campaign, the revelation that Trump had paid Stormy Daniels to stay quiet could have altered the outcome.

“In the wake of ‘Access Hollywood,’ this scandal, had [the Stormy Daniels news] broken, could have swung the election to Trump’s opponent,” Eisen said. “The alleged falsification of financial records to cover up a campaign finance violation in New York might constitute the one case where the outcome of the election was actually altered. So I think it’s a very serious matter.”

Eisen, who served as a counsel to Democrats during the 2019 impeachment proceedings of Trump, sees a connection between the Daniels matter, Trump’s two impeachments and the other cases for which the former president also faces possible indictment.

“It was kind of a gateway drug for the later democracy crimes that I investigated for impeachment in 2019, when Trump tried to get the president of Ukraine to attack his opponent,” Eisen said. “That’s a form of election interference. Of course, the attempted coup in 2020 was one, but so is alleged financial and campaign finance fraud that could have swung the outcome of an election.”