How to understand next week’s Trump criminal felony trial

Robert Reich

Roberts Substack

Robert Reich’s update on the upcoming criminal trial on election interference.


Trump wants you to think that all he did was try to cover up a sexual affair. Wrong.

Trump’s first criminal trial, the first criminal trial of a former president, ever — is scheduled to begin Monday. The 34-count business falsification case may be the only case against Trump to reach a verdict before the November election.

Many people I speak with are worried this is the weakest of Trump’s four pending criminal trials. They think so because it has to do with an illicit affair.

Wrong. This case is commonly called the “hush money” case. It is referred to as Trump’s “coverup of a sex scandal,” this way of describing it minimizes its importance.

This case is really an election interference case. The same as the criminal cases charging him with seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Together, they establish an ongoing pattern. A pattern Trump will do anything to gain and keep power, even if his actions violate the nation’s laws.

This case alleges that in 2016 Trump arranged to pay off an adult entertainer in order to hide his affair with her from the public. The important thing to keep in mind is the money was to protect Trump’s campaign for the presidency. It was not to protect his marriage or protect him from personal embarrassment.

The entire purpose of the payoff was to help Trump become president.

Had its sole purpose been to hide a personal sexual affair, it would not have been criminal.

It was criminal because Trump interfered in an election. He violated campaign finance laws. He deprived voters of information that might have affected their votes. Trump then sought to cover it up with false entries in business records.

The mainstream media keeps referring to Trump’s upcoming trial as based on “charges that he covered up a sex scandal.” That’s exactly how Trump wants it characterized. So it looks like the district attorney is tarring Trump with having had an extramarital affair with a porn star — a form of character assassination, not a crime.

But that’s not what the trial is about, and it’s not what’s at stake. Trump tried to keep relevant information from voters on the eve of the 2016 election.

This trial is about the integrity of our elections system.

As Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg explained, Trump was out to:

“bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects. Trump then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity.”

In calling this the “hush money” or “sex scandal” case and implying that Trump was merely trying to hide his tryst with a porn star, the mainstream media is minimizing its significance and misleading the public.

The way Trump’s actions are characterized, the words used to describe what Trump has done to America, are critically important. Please make sure you describe what’s at stake in the upcoming trial accurately, correct others when they misdescribe it, and write or email any media that misstate what it’s about.