The Trump trials: A former president faces justice

CBS Sunday Morning
3 Mar 202410:31


TLDRThe trial of former US President Donald Trump is set to begin in a Manhattan Courthouse, marking an unprecedented legal challenge in American history. With 91 criminal charges spread across four different courtrooms, Trump faces accusations ranging from falsifying business records to conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results. This situation not only puts Trump's freedom at risk but also tests the resilience of the nation's judicial system. Legal experts Erin Moriarty, Melissa Murray, and Andrew Weissmann discuss the implications for American democracy, as Trump simultaneously runs for office again, complicating the legal and political landscape.


  • šŸ—¼ Donald Trump is facing an unprecedented situation as a former US president facing multiple criminal charges across different states and jurisdictions.
  • āš–ļø The trials revolve around allegations of falsifying business records, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and mishandling classified documents, putting Trump's freedom at stake.
  • āŒš Delays and legal maneuverings, like claiming presidential immunity, have slowed down the judicial process, potentially benefiting Trump's political ambitions.
  • šŸ—³ļø The trials raise questions about holding former leaders accountable while running for office and ensuring a fair trial amidst political polarization.
  • šŸ‘„ Juries comprised of American citizens will play a crucial role in deciding the cases, with experts expressing confidence in their ability to fulfill their civic duty impartially.
  • šŸŽ™ļø Trump is expected to use the trials as part of his campaign narrative, portraying himself as a victim of a 'disgraceful' prosecution.
  • āš”ļø The trials represent a 'defining moment' in American history, testing the balance of power and the nation's judicial system's ability to hold leaders accountable.
  • šŸ” Prosecutors allege Trump made false statements about election results, conspired to interfere with vote counting, and concealed hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
  • šŸ—£ļø Trump's legal team argues for dismissal, claiming his actions were protected by free speech rights and presidential immunity.
  • āš–ļø Experts debate the desirability of prosecuting a candidate months before an election, citing concerns about fairness and the public's perception of the process.

Q & A

  • What makes the criminal cases against Donald Trump a 'defining moment' according to the experts?

    -The experts, Andrew Weissmann and Melissa Murray, believe the criminal cases against Donald Trump are a defining moment because he is facing 91 criminal charges in four different courtrooms, putting his freedom at risk, not just his finances. This is unprecedented for a former U.S. president.

  • What are the main criminal cases against Donald Trump mentioned in the script?

    -The main criminal cases mentioned are: 1) The hush money case in New York, where he is accused of falsifying business records, 2) The case in Washington D.C., where he is charged with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results, 3) The case in Georgia, related to the phone call asking to 'find votes', and 4) The case in Florida, regarding keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

  • What is Robert Ray's main argument against the criminal prosecutions of Donald Trump?

    -Robert Ray, a former federal prosecutor who defended Trump during his first impeachment, argues that a significant portion of the country does not believe Trump will be afforded fairness in these trials. He believes the country may 'rue the day' it went down this road of criminally prosecuting a former president who is also a candidate.

  • How does Donald Trump's legal strategy aim to delay the trials, according to the script?

    -The script suggests that Donald Trump has learned the 'art of delay' from his former attorney Roy Cohn. His lawyers have made claims like presidential immunity to try and postpone the trials until after the election, which is described as a desirable political strategy for Trump.

  • What is the key issue in the Washington D.C. case against Donald Trump?

    -The Washington D.C. case alleges that Donald Trump conspired with others to interfere with the results of the 2020 presidential election. The indictment accuses him of knowingly making false statements about election results and trying to induce officials to alter vote counts.

  • What is the potential impact of the Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments on presidential immunity in the Washington D.C. case?

    -The Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments on presidential immunity in the Washington D.C. case could potentially delay the trial even further, as the case was initially scheduled to begin this week but was halted due to Trump's claim of immunity.

  • What is the central allegation in the New York hush money case against Donald Trump?

    -In the New York case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges that Donald Trump falsified business records to conceal a bigger crime - paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair before the 2016 election.

  • How does the script describe the potential challenges in selecting an impartial jury for Donald Trump's trials?

    -The script suggests that there are questions about whether Donald Trump can get a fair trial in the District of Columbia or Manhattan, given the potential juries. However, Professor Murray expresses confidence that most jurors take their civic duty seriously, regardless of their political affiliations.

  • What is the significance of Michael Cohen's conviction in relation to the New York hush money case against Donald Trump?

    -Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, was convicted of similar charges related to the hush money payments in 2018 and sentenced to three years in prison. This could be seen as strengthening the case against Trump, who is accused of falsifying records for the same payments.

  • How does the script suggest Donald Trump might use the trials as part of his campaign strategy?

    -The script suggests that Donald Trump will likely try to use the trials as part of his campaign message, as he has done with every other stage of the prosecutions. It is expected that he will continue to hold court and make statements outside the courtroom, portraying himself as a victim of a 'disgraceful' situation.



āš–ļø The Unprecedented Trial of Donald Trump

The script discusses the unprecedented criminal trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump, marking a critical moment in American history. Trump faces 91 criminal charges across four different cases, touching on falsifying business records, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results, and mishandling classified documents. Legal experts Melissa Murray and Andrew Weissmann emphasize the trial's significance in the context of American democracy and the judiciary's role. Despite Trump's extensive legal battles, this moment is pivotal due to the potential for serious consequences, including the loss of his freedom. The complexity of the trials, combined with Trump's candidacy for president, raises questions about the American legal system's capacity to handle such a high-profile defendant. The narrative underscores the tension between seeking accountability and the political implications of prosecuting a former leader.


šŸš§ Legal and Political Roadblocks in Trumpā€™s Trials

This segment delves into the challenges and delays encountered in Trump's trial, particularly focusing on his claim of presidential immunity and the strategic delays which may benefit his political ambitions. The Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments on Trump's claim highlights the intricate balance between legal processes and political strategies. Historical references to Trump's learning from Roy Cohn on delaying tactics underline the strategic use of legal delays. Despite efforts to postpone, the New York case against Trump for falsifying business records to hide election fraud proceeds. The script touches on the debate over the fairness and timing of trials against political figures during election cycles, the role of the judiciary in ensuring a fair trial, and the potential impact of these trials on Trump's political future. The narrative portrays the legal battles as a test of the American legal system's resilience and its ability to administer justice impartially, regardless of the defendant's political stature.


šŸ‡ŗšŸ‡ø Jury Duty as a Civic Responsibility

The final paragraph emphasizes the integrity and civic responsibility of American jurors, regardless of their political affiliations. It highlights the belief in the American jury system's capability to transcend partisan biases, focusing on jurors' roles as impartial arbiters of justice. This segment underscores the faith in the judicial process and the critical role of citizens in upholding the principles of democracy through jury service. It concludes the narrative on a note of confidence in the American public's ability to partake in one of the most fundamental aspects of its democratic system, reflecting the overarching theme of trust in the judicial system's fairness and impartiality.



šŸ’”Judicial System

The judicial system refers to the set of courts and their associated processes that interpret and apply the law. In the context of the video, the judicial system is portrayed as a crucial element in holding former leaders accountable for alleged crimes, with Donald Trump facing multiple criminal charges across different courtrooms. The script highlights the unprecedented nature of a former president being subjected to such legal scrutiny, questioning the system's ability to handle this situation fairly.


An indictment is a formal accusation or charge of a crime issued by a grand jury or prosecuting authority. The video mentions several indictments against Donald Trump, including accusations of falsifying business records, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results, and mishandling classified documents. These indictments set the stage for potential criminal trials, where the charges will be tested in court.


Accountability refers to the obligation to accept responsibility for one's actions and to be held answerable for them. In the context of the video, the multiple indictments against Donald Trump are seen as an attempt to hold him accountable for alleged wrongdoings, potentially leading to consequences such as fines or imprisonment. The script questions whether the legal system can ensure accountability for a former president, given the unprecedented nature of the situation.

šŸ’”Due Process

Due process refers to the legal principle that ensures fair treatment and adherence to established rules and procedures in the administration of justice. The video addresses concerns about whether Donald Trump can receive a fair trial, given the potential biases of juries and the highly politicized nature of the cases. Ensuring due process is seen as a crucial aspect of maintaining the integrity of the judicial system, even in extraordinary circumstances.

šŸ’”Presidential Immunity

Presidential immunity is a legal concept that suggests that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted or held accountable for certain actions taken while in office. The video mentions that Donald Trump's legal team has asserted this claim, arguing that he should be protected from prosecution. However, this claim has been initially rejected by lower courts, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court battle over the boundaries of presidential immunity.

šŸ’”Special Counsel

A special counsel is an independent prosecutor appointed to investigate and potentially prosecute specific allegations or circumstances. In the video, Jack Smith is mentioned as the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to handle the case against Donald Trump for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results. The appointment of a special counsel is often intended to ensure impartiality and avoid conflicts of interest in high-profile cases.

šŸ’”First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, among other rights. In the video, there is a discussion about whether Donald Trump's statements regarding the 2020 election results could be protected under the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. However, legal experts argue that this protection does not extend to speech that involves criminal activities, such as conspiring to defraud the United States.

šŸ’”Delay Tactics

Delay tactics refer to legal strategies employed by defendants or their attorneys to prolong or postpone court proceedings. The video suggests that Donald Trump has learned and utilized such tactics from his former attorney, Roy Cohn, to stall and defer the various legal cases against him. These delays are portrayed as potentially advantageous for Trump's political aspirations, as they could push the trials beyond the next election cycle.

šŸ’”Jury Selection

Jury selection, also known as voir dire, is the process of selecting impartial individuals to serve on a jury for a trial. The video mentions that jurors chosen for Donald Trump's trial in the Manhattan hush money case will likely remain anonymous, and there is a concern about finding an unbiased jury given the highly publicized nature of the case and the potential political leanings of potential jurors in different jurisdictions.

šŸ’”Civic Duty

Civic duty refers to the responsibilities and obligations that individuals have as members of a community or society. In the context of the video, the script expresses confidence in jurors fulfilling their civic duty by setting aside personal biases and political affiliations when serving on juries in Donald Trump's cases. The belief is that jurors will approach the task with a sense of duty and impartiality, upholding the principles of the judicial system.


A criminal trial of former US president Donald J. Trump is scheduled to begin, marking a historic first.

The trial examines Donald Trump's unprecedented legal challenges, including 91 criminal charges across four different courtrooms.

Legal experts view this moment as defining for American history, comparing its significance to the promulgation of the Constitution and the Civil War.

In New York, Trump faces charges in the so-called hush money case for falsifying business records.

Charges in Washington DC and Georgia involve allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

In Florida, Trump is accused of keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property.

The trials could impact not just Trump's finances but potentially his freedom.

The complexity of the trials showcases an appetite for accountability within the American legal system.

Trump's dual role as a defendant and a presidential candidate adds a unique layer of complexity to the proceedings.

Experts have created an impartial guide to help the public understand the disputed facts of the four criminal cases.

The Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments on Trump's claim of presidential immunity, introducing delays to the trial process.

Donald Trump's legal strategy involves delaying the trials, a tactic learned from controversial attorney Roy Cohn.

The New York case against Trump involves allegations of falsifying records to conceal another crime, specifically election fraud.

Jurors in Trump's trial will likely remain anonymous, and no cameras will be allowed in the courtroom.

The trials raise questions about the ability to achieve a fair trial given the political climate and potential jury biases.

Legal and historical experts emphasize the importance of the jury system and the civic duty of American citizens in ensuring a fair trial.



he spent more time in courtrooms thanĀ  perhaps any presidential candidate orĀ Ā 


former president in American history ErinĀ  Moriarty explains how in some ways it'sĀ Ā 


not just Donald Trump who's on trial it'sĀ  the very nature of our nation's judicial


system on March 25th inside room 1530 of thisĀ  Manhattan Courthouse a trial unlike any otherĀ Ā 


scheduled to begin a criminal trial of a formerĀ  US president Donald J Trump you know we've neverĀ Ā 


been in a situation like this where we'veĀ  been faced with the prospect of holding aĀ Ā 


former leader to account what does that meanĀ  for the balance of power Melissa Murray teachesĀ Ā 


constitutional law at the New York UniversityĀ  School of Law Andrew Weissmann teaches criminalĀ Ā 


procedure there well I do think that if you thinkĀ  about American history there's sort of definingĀ Ā 


moments there's the actual promulgation of theĀ  Constitution there's the Civil War and I thinkĀ Ā 


I mean without the hyperbole I do you think thisĀ  is a defining moment in terms of having a criminalĀ Ā 


case to be clear Donald Trump is no stranger toĀ  the legal system and recent civil judgments MayĀ Ā 


cost him nearly half a billion dollars but whatĀ  makes this a defining moment say Weissmann andĀ Ā 


Murray is that he is facing 91 criminal chargesĀ  in four different courtrooms in New York in theĀ Ā 


so-called hush money case Trump is accused ofĀ  falsifying business records in Washington DC andĀ Ā 


Georgia for allegedly conspiring to overturnĀ  the 2020 election and in Florida for keepingĀ Ā 


classified documents at his Mara Lago propertyĀ  and what's at stake now for Donald Trump is notĀ Ā 


just his finances but possibly his freedom theĀ  fact that we have these four indictments showĀ Ā 


that there is an appetite for accountability butĀ  is he too much for the American legal system IĀ Ā 


think that's what we're going to find out becauseĀ  overshadowing this tangle of Trials is the factĀ Ā 


that defendant Trump is also candidate Trump IĀ  think the country is going to rue the day thatĀ Ā 


we ever travel down this road Robert Ray a formerĀ  Federal prosecutor successfully defended TrumpĀ Ā 


when he first faced impeachment in late 2019 whatĀ  federal prosecutors want is they want the publicĀ Ā 


to come to accept that the defendant was affordedĀ  fairness I think that there's a good percentage ofĀ Ā 


the country right now that doesn't believe thatĀ  and that is why professors Weissmann and MurrayĀ Ā 


put together what they say is an impartial GuideĀ  to the Trump indictments there are facts that areĀ Ā 


disputed in four criminal cases and our job is toĀ  translate that for uh people hopefully who reallyĀ Ā 


will understand that they need to get engagedĀ  they begin not with the New York case but theĀ Ā 


one they believe levels the most serious chargesĀ  United States of America versus Donald Trump beingĀ Ā 


heard in Washington DC today an indictment wasĀ  unsealed charging Donald J Trump with conspiringĀ Ā 


to defraud the United States last August JackĀ  Smith the special Counsel appointed by attorneyĀ Ā 


general Merrick Garland charged Trump withĀ  conspiring with others to interfere with theĀ Ā 


results of the 2020 presidential election theĀ  sort of gist of it is that you have a plot toĀ Ā 


disrupt the counting of the votes Smith allegesĀ  Donald Trump knowingly made false statements aboutĀ Ā 


election results in States like Georgia andĀ  according to court filings cites as evidenceĀ Ā 


Trump's own social social media posts like thisĀ  one falsely accusing Democrats of stuffing ballotĀ Ā 


boxes Smith also alleges the defendant lied to theĀ  Georgia Secretary of State to induce him to alterĀ Ā 


Georgia's vote count in that now famous telephoneĀ  call on January 2nd 2021 I just want to find


11,780 votes which is one more than we have butĀ  former Trump attorney Robert Ray says a juryĀ Ā 


may hear that phone call differently finding votesĀ  doesn't necessarily mean find me 11,000 fraudulentĀ Ā 


votes and adds that Donald Trump will argue heĀ  was exercising his right to free speech attorneyĀ Ā 


Weissmann counters I was a prosecutor for manyĀ  years there's no First Amendment um protectionĀ Ā 


in terms of a criminal case if you were to to robĀ  a bank and say give me all your money that speechĀ Ā 


none of that is protected my office will seek aĀ  speedy trial so that our evidence can be testedĀ Ā 


in court and judged by a jury of citizensĀ  but that speedy trial that was scheduledĀ Ā 


to begin in a federal courtroom in Washington DCĀ  tomorrow ran into a roadblock earlier this yearĀ Ā 


after Trump's lawyers made a claim that echoed oneĀ  made by another former president 50 years ago goĀ Ā 


when the president does it that means that it isĀ  not illegal by definition exactly exactly DonaldĀ Ā 


Trump asserts he's protected from prosecutionĀ  by Presidential immunity while that claim wasĀ Ā 


initially thrown out by a federal appeals courtĀ  Trump asked the Supreme Court to weigh in and inĀ Ā 


a win for Trump just this past week the justicesĀ  agreed to hear arguments on the case in April soĀ Ā 


even a case that's built for Speed can be derailedĀ  by delays yes doesn't that kind of reflect one ofĀ Ā 


the limitations of the American system theseĀ  delays Donald Trump once wrote a book calledĀ Ā 


The Art of the deal this is the art of delay andĀ  he's played it very well there's no question thatĀ Ā 


it is desirable politically for Donald Trump toĀ  delay these cases until after the election forĀ Ā 


obvious reason um he's entitled to take thatĀ  position it's a strategy that presidentialĀ Ā 


historian Douglas Brinkley says that Trump learnedĀ  from controversial attorney Roy Cohn chief counselĀ Ā 


to senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and whoĀ  represented the Trump organization in the 1970sĀ Ā 


what Trump has going for him is that he learnedĀ  how to stall and defer and postpone kick theĀ Ā 


can but more than that he learned never admitĀ  defeat but as much as they have tried DonaldĀ Ā 


Trump's lawyers have not been able to delay orĀ  dismiss this case the people of the state ofĀ Ā 


New York against Donald Trump under New YorkĀ  state law it is a felony to falsify businessĀ Ā 


records with intent to defraud and an intentĀ  to conceal another crime last year ManhattanĀ Ā 


district attorney Vin Bragg alleged that DonaldĀ  Trump had falsified records to conceal a biggerĀ Ā 


crime election fraud the defendant claimedĀ  that he was paying Michael Cohen for LegalĀ Ā 


Services performed in 2017 this simply was notĀ  true instead Bragg says the hush money went toĀ Ā 


pay Stephanie Clifford an adult film star betterĀ  known as Stormy Daniels to buy her Silence aboutĀ Ā 


an alleged affair with Trump before the 2016Ā  election while some legal observers questionĀ Ā 


the strength of the case Trump's former lawyerĀ  Michael Cohen was convicted of similar chargesĀ Ā 


in 2018 and sentenced to three years in prisonĀ  jurors chosen for Trump's trial will likely remainĀ Ā 


anonymous and no cameras will be allowed insideĀ  the courtroom what's more unlike his previousĀ Ā 


civil trials Donald Trump will be required toĀ  be in here instead of on the campaign Trail thisĀ Ā 


is about defending his rights him showing up inĀ  court and being able to mount a vigorous defenseĀ Ā 


to the charges against him that's his right as aĀ  defendant that won't keep him from holding CourtĀ Ā 


outside as he did after a recent hearing nobody'sĀ  ever seen anything like it in this country it's aĀ Ā 


disgrace is he going to try to use this case asĀ  part of his campaign message of course he willĀ Ā 


he has done that with regard to every otherĀ  stage of of these prosecutions why would theĀ Ā 


trial be any different Manhattan D.A. Bragg hasĀ  already asked the judge to rein Trump in with aĀ Ā 


partial gag order but Ray blames the prosecutorsĀ  for taking a candidate to trial just monthsĀ Ā 


before a presidential election are you sayingĀ  that former leaders should never when they'reĀ Ā 


running for reelection ever be held accountableĀ  for alleged crimes no but I'm saying that theĀ Ā 


unusual circumstance that we find ourselves inĀ  is that we've got four pending indictments in anĀ Ā 


election cycle that is a result that I think mostĀ  people would agree is undesirable but Bob he getsĀ Ā 


to bring in his evidence he gets to cross-examineĀ  Witnesses and he could be acquitted and that wouldĀ Ā 


that would help him in an election year I thinkĀ  there are questions about about whether or notĀ Ā 


Donald Trump can get a fair trial in the DistrictĀ  of Columbia as there are whether or not he canĀ Ā 


get a fair trial in Manhattan given the potentialĀ  juries I've watched them deliberate they take itĀ Ā 


very seriously but Professor Murray is confidentĀ  that juries made up of American citizens are moreĀ Ā 


than up to the task I think very few jurors goĀ  into there like I'm a Democrat I'm a RepublicanĀ Ā 


and I I think they go in there like I'm a jurorĀ  and I'm an American and this is my civic duty