A New York grand jury has voted to indict former US president Donald Trump over hush money payments made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 presidential election, US media report


  • A former FEC member said Trump would likely be convicted of a New York state law
  • A Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow said FEC rules don't apply to Trump's case
  • A former federal prosecutor said the Manhattan district attorney should prove Trump's intent

Experts have drawn parallels between the unprecedented indictment of former President Donald Trump over alleged hush-money payments and a similar case involving a former Democratic senator and presidential candidate more than a decade ago.

Several legal experts suggested that Trump could benefit from the outcome of the case of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who was acquitted on the charge of receiving illegal campaign donations in 2012. The jury deadlocked on Edwards' five other counts, and the Justice Department dropped its prosecution of the ex-senator.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Bradley Smith, a former member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), noted that in Edwards' case, the former senator was accused of violating federal campaign finance laws over nearly $1 million in payments his backers made to support his mistress during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Smith argued that Trump's case is unrelated to campaign finance and suggested that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could face a hard time proving it.

"If they go ahead to go to trial and find Trump guilty, he's not going to be found guilty of federal campaign finance violations; he's going to be found guilty of violating the New York state law on altering business records in order to cover up other crimes, which are allegedly these campaign finance crimes," Smith, a Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault designated professor at Capital University School of Law, said.

He went on to note that the fact that the jury acquitted Edwards on one count and "hung on" the others "illustrates the tremendous difficulty of winning this kind of case both on the law and the facts."

Another former FEC member suggested that the Justice Department didn't pursue charging Trump with federal campaign finance violations because of the result of Edwards' case.

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Heritage Foundation, told the outlet that the FEC had long established its "irrespective test," which helps it determine whether an expense was campaign-related.

"'Would that expense exist irrespective if you're running for office?'" he said of the test. "That's why you can't use campaign money, for example, to pay the mortgage on your house, buy a car, because all those expenses would exist whether or not you were running for office or not."

Spakovsky claimed that the former president's case was about a "settlement of a personal injury claim."

"It might be more important because you're running for office, but when you apply the FEC's test to it, it's not a campaign-related expense and, therefore, none of the federal rules apply to it," Spakovsky said.

Meanwhile, former federal prosecutor Katie Cherkasky told Fox News Digital that Edwards' case was "much stronger from a criminal prosecutorial perspective" than Trump's.

Cherkasky, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, said prosecutors must prove that Trump paid his mistress using campaign funds with "an intent to interfere with the election."

The former federal prosecutor stressed that hush-money payments are legal and that if Trump used it for personal reasons, he will likely be acquitted of his charges.

Last Thursday, a New York grand jury indicted Trump in connection with a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, making him the first-ever sitting or former president to face criminal charges.

The former Republican president, who is currently seeking a White House comeback, cried foul over Bragg's investigation, describing it as a persecution and witch hunt.

A few days prior to his indictment, Trump said on his Truth Social account that he expected to be arrested over the case and urged his supporters to protest and "take our nation back."

Trump was also defended by his Republican colleagues, setting off congressional investigations over Bragg's handling of the case.

The former president is expected to voluntarily surrender and attend his arraignment in the Manhattan courthouse Tuesday.

John Edwards political career imploded after he was caught in a cheating scandal that ultimately resulted in him admitting he fathered a daughter with Rielle Hunter. Reuters