Here’s what the cases mean for Trump, his supporters and 2024.
By: Amanda Rubio & Kate Augustine
Since the beginning of our nation’s 234-year political history, no former or current U.S. president has ever faced criminal charges. 2023 is the year that changed – with one individual as the face of it all: former President Donald Trump. Within a mere six months, Trump has been indicted and arraigned on four separate occasions. So, what exactly are the charges against Trump, and what does this mean for the 2024 Republican frontrunner?
Trump’s first indictment came on March 30, 2023, after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the former president, charging him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. The charges are tied to a payoff Trump made to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who has alleged that the two had an affair.
Michael Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney at the time, paid Daniels a total of $130,000, essentially buying Daniels’ silence in order to prevent any sort of scandal from arising as Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign came to a close.
On April 4, 2023, the former president made a historic court appearance, turned himself in and ultimately pleaded not guilty. At this time, a trial is scheduled for March 25, 2024.
A grand jury in Florida indicted Trump on June 9, 2023, less than three months following his first indictment. He was charged with 40 felony counts of willful retention of national defense information, obstruction-related crimes and false statements.
The indictment came after 102 classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort were seized by the FBI in August 2022. The search and seizure was prompted by a Justice Department investigation into the former president’s possession of classified records following his time as president.
On June 13, 2023, Trump once again pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, which took place in Miami, Florida. A trial for this case is scheduled for May 20, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida.
The Storming of the Capitol
Trump’s third indictment took place on August 1, 2023, and was approved by a Washington grand jury that spent months hearing testimony from former members of the Trump administration, including former Vice President Mike Pence.
The charges include two felony counts of obstructing an official proceeding, one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one felony count of conspiracy against rights. They relate to the former president’s continued attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election during the two months between Election Day in 2020 and the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
On August 4, 2023, Trump pleaded not guilty for the third time in a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse. The trial for this case is set to begin on March 4, 2024.
Election Interference in Georgia
The fourth and most recent of Trump’s indictments, which occurred on August 14, 2023, was approved by an Atlanta-based jury, where the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election were conceivably most concentrated. Trump, along with 18 co-defendants, were charged with 41 state-law felony counts related to election interference – 13 of which are specifically directed at Trump.
Despite numerous recounts that consistently confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, the attempts made by Trump and his allies to reverse the results in the state were aggressive. One key piece of evidence in the case is the infamous phone call where Trump implored Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes – the exact number of votes Trump needed to defeat Biden in Georgia.
On Thursday, August 24, 2023, the former president surrendered at the Fulton County jail. Trump was booked and subsequently became the first United States president to be subjected to a mug shot.
Trump has yet to appear before a judge for arraignment; however, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is at the forefront of the case, has proposed that the arraignment occur during the week of September 5, 2023.
Can Trump run for president if he is convicted?
Ah, a question for the ages… Simply put, the answer is yes.
While the Constitution does lay out certain requirements and qualifications for prospective presidents – including being a natural-born citizen of the United States, being at least 35 years old and having been a resident of the United States for 14 years – it does not include restrictions based on an individual’s criminal record.
So, how exactly will all of this affect the former president’s chances in the upcoming presidential election in 2024? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Why are people still supporting him?
You may be asking yourself at this point: How is he still the frontrunner for the Republican nomination? The answer is a deeply motivated voter base that is connected to Trump emotionally and personally.
This phenomenon would most likely be considered a parasocial relationship, a relationship that a person imagines having with someone – such as a public figure or a fictional character – they don’t actually know. This can lead fans to treat a public figure as a close friend and then invest time, energy and support into someone who doesn’t even know they exist. Though they are typically associated with influencers and celebrities, the rise of social media meant it was only a matter of time before parasocial relationships started breaking out among constituents.
If you go on any social media platform, you can find fan art, thirst traps or compilations of all the times Trump “owned his rivals.” His campaign is as strong as ever, and his voter base is seemingly undeterred enough by his scandals to not stop supporting him. At this point, it seems like the Trump brand and persona have become all too alluring to Republican voters, leaving them wanting more, regardless of the potential laws broken and lies told.
Trump’s brazen affront to the law and his supporters' ability to turn a blind eye to his transgressions have created a problematic precedent where people vote for personality over policy. The trend of political parasocial relationships hints at an ominous future for Washington. The line between civil servant and celebrity has become blurred, and it has started having a dangerous effect on the country.
What’s in store for Washington?
The rise of personality politics signals an alarming trend that is rising in American politics. If we start picking lawmakers based on style rather than substance, we risk the future and legitimacy of the people in power. Voting for lawmakers after they have allegedly broken the law can only lead to further problems and unethical behavior.
Parasocial relationships with politicians have led to further division in the country, where the people we support and love are the heroes, and the other political party is the villain. Watching AOC “fire back” at GOP members or Trump call Biden another silly nickname, we start to forget that these politicians are not entertainers. Their job is to create change for the betterment of the nation, not have the best Twitter comeback.
Amanda is a second-year journalism student at the University of Florida. At the moment – when she’s not busy – you can probably find her rewatching the second season of Heartstopper and complaining about her PHD (post-Heartstopper depression).
Kate is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. She is currently in parasocial relationships with Taylor Swift, Lightning McQueen and Bill Nye the Science Guy.