Former President Trump case: should it be handled in federal court?

Apr 4, 2023, 2:33 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2024, 2:53 pm

Then- President Trump leads a meeting with travel and tourism industry executives to discuss econom...

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: U.S. President Donald Trump leads a meeting with travel and tourism industry executives to discuss economic response to the coronavirus outbreak in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration is considering an $850 billion stimulus package to counter the economic fallout as the coronavirus spreads. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Former President Donald Trump was arrested in New York City on Tuesday after an indictment from a Manhattan Grand Jury was unsealed. The arrest comes after charges made last week that President Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen made a payment of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels 

Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began when President Trump was still in the White House and relates to a $130,000 payment made by his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, days before the presidential election, to silence her from going public about an alleged affair with President Trump a decade earlier.

The arrest has angered some people in America, who say that a cast against President Trump should be tried in a federal court rather than by a state’s district attorney, as is the case in New York.

“Jury pool will be tainted”

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the Americans saying the case should be a federal one.  Olsen joined KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources this week.

Specifically, he said, because the former president’s jury will come from an area that voted 7-1 against him. 

“Every judge that hears this case is going to be one that is a Democrat who is elected … on partisan ballots,” Olsen told Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson.

“What judge is not going to be tempted by the fact that if [they] rule in favor of Trump someway, Democrats will seek their vengeance when they are next on the ballot in their primary,” he said. 

For Olsen, this raises the question of whether the process should be guided by politics, or policy and principal?

“There will be a lot of incentives for people to seek vengeance. Who knows when Biden or whether or not the Biden Administration individuals can be arguably indicted … on a similarly stacked jurisdiction.” 

KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas pointed out there have always been high-profile cases, they are not unique. According to Skordas, it’s not about whether or not a potential juror knows the case or the person. Rather, he said, it’s about whether a jurist is willing to set aside what they think they know and decide the case based on the evidence presented to them.

Skordas points out one example in Utah’s own backyard … the case of Lori Vallow Daybell. 

“If the New York DA thinks that Trump violated a state crime he has no choice but to prosecute it in state court,” said Skordas. “Wherever that crime occurs that entity prosecutes it as they see fit.” 

New York law vs federal statute 

After former President Donald Trump allegedly wrote a hush money check to adult film star Stormy Daniels, he reportedly improperly recorded the transaction on his cooperate books. Olsen said in order to charge a felony, the courts must prove he did this in order to violate another law; campaign finance law.

Which according to Olsen, is a matter of federal law.  

“Do you actually want to take the rule of law and our legal process seriously or is this just kind of the case… [where it’s been] decided the person’s guilty — [the issue is] just trying to figure out what crime he’s committed.” 

Skordas argues that is not the nature of the allegation against Mr. Trump. “They [the district attorney is]) saying [President Trump] he lied about his books, and he did that while in New York. He misrepresented where the money was going. The campaign finance law is a separate one than what he is facing in New York.”

In a nutshell, the case looks like this:  a New York state prosecutor convened a New York state grand jury to consider whether the former president violated any New York state statutes. Skordas said that the grand jury was never asked to consider whether a federal statute was violated. He admited that would be for a federal grand jury to decide.

Moving beyond the politics

To move past the politics of it all, Olsen suggests reading through the indictments and the elements of the crime. 

Skordas agreed, saying the specifics of the indictment will show that the grand jury was never asked to consider whether the former president violated federal campaign laws.

Instead, Skordas predicted the indictment will say that the New York State grand jury found the former president violated New York State law.

Listen to the full segment with Henry Olsen below.


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Former President Trump case: should it be handled in federal court?