Former President Donald Trump, a declared presidential candidate for 2024, was in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday for an arraignment hearing during which Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg unsealed a grand jury criminal indictment that charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony.
Bragg's prosecutors reportedly asked the judge during that hearing to set a date for the trial to commence in January 2024, which would seem to interfere with the Republican primary process by starting the trial right before individual state primary elections begin, according to Breitbart.
The news that Manhattan prosecutors sought a January 2024 trial date from Judge Juan Merchan was shared by Fox News producer Jake Gibson, who observed the arraignment proceedings from inside the courtroom.
Breitbart noted that the first contest of the Republican primary process, the Iowa caucuses, are scheduled to be held on February 5, 2024, and it is unclear -- and also perhaps unlikely -- if the trial beginning at some unspecified point in January would be concluded by that time.
"That means prosecutors want a trial that would undoubtedly affect the race for the Republican nomination, both by distracting the current frontrunner, and by tarnishing him relative to other candidates in the race," the outlet noted.
Breitbart added, "The requested date would also deprive Republican voters of the opportunity to choose another candidate, in the event that Trump was found guilty. It would force them to vote while the outcome of the trial is still in question."
And, as if the appearance of interference from the prosecutors weren't enough, it looks like Judge Merchan may also be interfering in the 2024 election process to an extent by scheduling a court appearance and hearing for Trump on December 5, which is right in the middle of the GOP primary debate season, according to Breitbart.
The outlet further drew comparisons to former President Trump's first impeachment trial in early 2020, which arguably interfered with that election by not only keeping the then-president off the campaign trail during a crucial period of time but also a number of elected Democrats vying for their party's nomination who were also tied to Washington D.C. and prevented from campaigning.
To be sure, Fox News' Gibson reported that Trump's attorneys would like "as much time as they could get" to prepare for the Manhattan trial -- and Trump himself is well-known for employing various delay tactics during civil trials -- but in this particular instance, it would likely be more beneficial to Trump and tens of millions of GOP voters for this trial to be dealt with and concluded as swiftly as possible.
The New York Post reported that New York's class E felony charge for falsifying business records in the first degree carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
That means that Trump, if convicted on all 34 counts and sentenced to serve the maximum sentence for each charge consecutively, could face up to 136 years in prison.
Of course, it seems highly unlikely that Trump would receive the maximum four-year sentence per count or that he would be forced to serve his time consecutively, meaning one after the other, instead of concurrently, or all at the same time -- if he is even found guilty at all or the case isn't ultimately dismissed before the trial begins.
All of this stems from DA Bragg's assertion that former President Trump falsified internal Trump Organization business records, a victimless crime that is ordinarily a misdemeanor, by labeling as "legal expenses" the reimbursement paid in 2017 to then-personal attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 "hush money" payment given to porn actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged affair in 2006.
Ironically, given how the upcoming trial will negatively influence and interfere with Trump's prospects in the 2024 election, Bragg's "Statement of Facts" alongside the indictment accused Trump of having "orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant’s electoral prospects."