Former U.S. president Donald Trump is seen in Tulsa, Okla., on March 18. He was indicted on Thursday on charges related to hush money payments made in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels. (Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press)
Manhattan grand jury on Thursday voted to indict Donald Trump on charges involving payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of two extramarital sexual encounters, the first criminal case ever against a former U.S. president and a jolt to Trump’s bid to retake the White House in 2024.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed the indictment. The district attorney’s office issued a statement saying a date for arraignment has not been selected.
Trump was asked to surrender Friday but his lawyers said the Secret Service needed additional time to make security preparations, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The people, who couldn’t publicly discuss security details, said Trump is expected to surrender early next week.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg left his office Thursday evening without commenting.
The specific charges are not yet known, as the indictment remains under seal. CNN reported Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
Prosecutors in New York investigated money paid to adult film performer and director Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep both women from going public with claims that they had sexual encounters with Trump before he became president.
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, centre, leaves his office on Thursday. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)
Trump, a Republican who’s running for the White House again in 2024, called the decision to indict him “political persecution and election interference at the highest level,” in a lengthy statement released minutes after the indictment was announced.
Trump called it the next step in a campaign from the left “to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable — indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” he said.
Trump accused Bragg of doing the “dirty work” of U.S. President Joe Biden, and “ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on.”
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said the former president is a victim “of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated.”
In a statement confirming the charges, defence lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Trump “did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”
Demonstrators in New York City hold a banner after Trump’s indictment on Thursday. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)
Trump’s former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on Twitter that Bragg has made “irresponsible and politically motivated efforts to take [Trump] down,” calling it “a sad day for America.”
The indictment is an extraordinary development after years of investigations into Trump’s business, political and personal dealings. It is likely to galvanize critics who say he lied and cheated his way to the top and embolden supporters who feel the Republican is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
For any New York defendant, answering criminal charges means being fingerprinted and photographed and spending some time being detained. But there’s no playbook for booking an ex-president with Secret Service protection.
In bringing the charges, Bragg is embracing an unusual case that had been investigated by two previous sets of prosecutors, both of which declined to take the politically explosive step of seeking Trump’s indictment.
In the weeks leading up to the indictment, Trump railed about the investigation on social media and urged supporters to protest on his behalf, prompting tighter security around the Manhattan criminal courthouse.
Trump faces other potential legal perils as he seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who are seeking or are likely to oppose him for the presidential nomination.
The district attorney in Atlanta has for two years been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 vote count. And a U.S. Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and his efforts to reverse his election loss.
Source – AP