Donald Trump criminal charges: New York officials prepare for possible indictment of former president

Police and city officials in New York are preparing for a possible indictment of former President Donald Trump, which could come as early as Tuesday, March 21. 

Now, Trump has asked his supporters to protest the pending criminal charges that are related to his using campaign cash to pay-off adult film star Stormy Daniels. 

It's not clear if protesters would remain peaceful, or if we would see something similar to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. 


Democratic analyst Ed Espinosa and Travis County GOP chairman Matt Mackowiak joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: Matt Mackowiak, former president, claims he's being targeted by the Manhattan D.A. Also, is it unusual that he would be calling for protests? And do you think that's the right move? 

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah, it certainly does look like for President Trump's being targeted. I mean, he's got multiple investigations that have been going on even before he was elected president in 2016. This appeared to be something they were looking at as a misdemeanor. Now it looks, it appears, they are going to upcharge it to a felony. They need to explain why that is, why they think they can win that case, what the evidence is. And I presume if they receive indictment from the grand jury, they would present some of that information publicly. I understand the desire to want to have Trump supporters express their opposition, but I don't think protests are helpful, and I certainly don't want to see any violence. I was glad to see Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy call for no violence in the protests this morning. So, you know, this is obviously a very fluid situation. It's unprecedented. We've never had a former president charged with a crime in this case. The question is going to be, do private payments as part of, I guess, a nondisclosure agreement or a settlement? Does that constitute a campaign finance violation? It seems to me you can be a private business person who's also running a campaign at the same time. But these are the legal questions we're going to have to get into. 

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, the possible arrest and indictment of Trump. Is this pure politics? 

ED ESPINOZA: No, I don't think it is politics. And to get back to your original question about him being targeted, I don't think he's being targeted either. I think that this is a pattern of behavior that Donald Trump has demonstrated since jumping into the race for president, maybe even farther back, depending on how you look at it. But look, 56 charges since 2015. This is in addition to the investigations over January 6th, to the investigations over taking classified documents and referring to refusing to hand them over in investigations into the interference with the Georgia election. This is one of many things that Donald Trump is dealing with, and it's problematic, and he's going to have to answer for it.

MATT MACKOWIAK: Yeah, I mean, the criminal basis for this would need to be proven and that would need to be that you were either using campaign funds for a personal purpose or trying to hide the true purpose of an expenditure. Again, it gets into a very interesting legal area, you know, is settling a business dispute or a personal history, I guess in this case, settling a personal dispute in the last 30 or 60 days of a campaign. Is that fundamentally a campaign finance expenditure? We've never had this kind of situation before. And so it does get into an interesting legal area in all the areas Ed is pointed out, many of which are still active investigations. The former president has not been charged. Now, he may be charged in Georgia. I guess they're looking at RICO statutes in Georgia excuse me, in New York. Is there other statutes you're looking at? So we'll see how that all develops. But we are in uncharted territory. And it does feel certainly looks like the DOJ and the Manhattan D.A. have been going after Trump. Remember, they got his CFO a few months ago on over inflating assets. I think they were hoping they could go after Trump on that. Ultimately, they haven't been able to.

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, what effect would this have on Trump's presidential campaign? 

ED ESPINOZA: Well, it's hard to say. Republican voters that like Trump tend to like him no matter what happens. And look, there are lots of things to go after Trump on. And I realize this may seem lighter than some of the other things that they've gone after him on, but even Al Capone was taken down by taxes and not for anything else. And if that's how they end up getting Donald Trump to finally be accountable for some of his wrongdoings, then maybe that's the way it's going to have to be is with this case. But is paying off of a porn star was absolutely political. It was for the benefit of his campaign, and it was to keep it secret before the election. There's really no common sense question involved here.

MIKE WARREN: All right. We are out of time. Al Capone and Donald Trump, Ed, Matt, thank you both very much.