What a former prosecutor expects to see following Donald Trump's indictment
Former U.S. president expected to surrender Tuesday for an arraignment
Former Manhattan district attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo says she is ready to see Donald Trump "held accountable for his behaviour."
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office launched an investigation into the former U.S. president more than a year ago — and now they are the first to secure an indictment against the former president of the United States.
The indictment is sealed, but American media reports say Trump's facing about 30 charges. Many are in connection to hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.
Agnifilo spoke with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about next week's proceedings. Here is part of their conversation.
Karen, Donald Trump's lawyer has said the former president will not be put in handcuffs, but what is this going to look like next week? Will we see a mug shot? Fingerprinting?
He will surrender Tuesday morning.
By doing that, he will surrender to investigators at the Manhattan DA's office, which is attached to the court building. And there they will bring him upstairs and they will fingerprint him and take a picture — his mug shot — and take certain pedigree information from him and fill out paperwork, just like they would any other arrestee. The fingerprints then get uploaded into a database and a rap sheet is generated.
It's actually not a public document. We'll see, though, what happens and if the defendant or someone else chooses to release that.
What conversations do you expect are going on behind the scenes right now in the district attorney's office?
I think that security is a big issue that people are trying to figure out; how to deal with the fact that, you know, he is the former president, so he's guarded by the Secret Service. Security isn't necessarily only up to the NYPD. They have to coordinate with federal law enforcement and they have to keep him safe as well as everybody else.
There's obviously a lot of public interest here and protests that are going on by Trump Tower that are anti-Trump, so in support of the prosecution.
Protesting in the U.S. is a tradition that people take very seriously and it's a right.... So it's something that law enforcement, they heavily guard the right to peacefully protest. And they will make sure that the people who are protesting on both sides will all be kept safe.
CNN is reporting today that Donald Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud in this indictment. Why such a high number?
This is an election interference case at its core.
The first time he tried to influence the election was when he was paying hush-money payments to Karen McDougal. He had a relationship with her for 10 months prior to his current marriage with Melania Trump. He paid her off.
He also paid off Stormy Daniels, a porn star who he had an affair with, I think, right after [Melania Trump] had given birth to their son. And the payments were right around the time of the election — and especially the one to Stormy Daniels was done in 11 separate payments.
While he was the sitting president of the United States, he was making these payments, so he was committing these crimes while president, not even before the election. And so each time he wrote a check and each time he entered into his business ledger that it was a legal retainer when it was not, it was to hide what it actually was. Each one is its own separate crime.
There also might be a conspiracy charge that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen and David Pecker and others potentially conspired with one another to influence the election and do this 'catch and kill' [of] the negative stories of him. And if there is a conspiracy charge, you'll see a lot more fulsome language in the indictment than if it's just the business records.
You worked in the office of the previous Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance Jr. The New York Times has said, and I'm quoting, "Mr. Vance's prosecutors considered the hush-money case several times. It floated around the office for so long it became known as the 'zombie case,' an idea that just wouldn't die." Can you shed some light on that for us?
The case was tricky because Michael Cohen, the witness that most of it relies on, is a flawed witness. He's somebody who has been convicted of this crime federally. He also has been convicted of other crimes federally, including tax-related crimes … and he also has a conviction for lying to Congress, by the way. So that will be fodder for a good defence attorney to cross-examine him.
Donald Trump picked Michael Cohen, right? He chose him to work for him and be in his inner circle because he would do things for him the way Donald Trump does things, including this intense need for attention. And the problem with that is it makes Michael Cohen somebody who you have to 100-per-cent corroborate because he looks like he has a revenge motive … and has a vendetta for Trump.
What does this mean, do you think, for other potential cases against the former president? Does this indictment set the stage for prosecutors in other districts to take action at this point?
I think that there's at least two, maybe three and maybe even four other investigations that will result in an arrest and prosecution. And they're all at very late stages of the game. It was just a matter of which one went first.
I'm fairly confident that the Georgia prosecutor, Fani Willis in Fulton County, Ga., is going to bring an indictment very soon, potentially against Trump, but certainly against others in his orbit regarding election interference. And the infamous phone call where Trump called the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and said, "Find me 11,780 votes."
There's also Jack Smith, the special prosecutor who's investigating both the Mar-a-Lago documents case as well as the January 6th insurrection.
I'm not surprised that Alvin Bragg went first.... That case, the statute of limitations runs in May, so it was now or never for that.
We knew this was coming, but this is an infamous moment in history. When you step back and reflect on that, what goes through your mind?
It's just sad that we elected someone president of the United States who would do and has done all the things that he has done and does. I mean, even just as recently as a week ago, he's posting a photograph of himself holding a baseball bat, pointed out like he's going to smash Alvin Bragg in the head.
He's calling Alvin Bragg an animal, which to me sounds very racist. And he's calling for death and destruction. I mean, who is this person and where are we in the world that we could actually elect someone like that?
He has to be held accountable for his behaviour. In my opinion, nobody's above the law.
Interview with Karen Friedman Agnifilo produced by Katie Geleff.