A New York grand jury indicted Donald Trump on Thursday for making hush money payments to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, making him the first former US president to face criminal charges.
The historic indictment of the 76-year-old Republican, who denies any wrongdoing in connection with the payments made ahead of the election that sent him to the White House, is certain to upend the current presidential race in which Trump hopes to reclaim the presidency.
And it will forever define the former president’s legacy, who survived two impeachments and kept prosecutors at bay over everything from the US Capitol riot to missing classified files only to end up in court over a sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels, a 44-year-old adult film actress.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed Thursday evening that it had contacted Trump’s lawyers to “coordinate his surrender” for arraignment in New York, with the felony charges against him to be revealed at that time.
According to CNN, he could face up to 30 counts of business fraud.
Trump slammed the indictment as “political persecution and election interference,” ranting against prosecutors and Democratic opponents and vowing that it would be used against his successor, Vice President Joe Biden.
Surrendering for arraignment, as Trump’s lawyers have stated he would do if indicted, would normally entail being fingerprinted, photographed, and possibly handcuffed.
“I’m getting so many messages that I can’t respond… “I also don’t want to spill my champagne,” she tweeted, promoting #TeamStormy merchandise.
Protests are possible
On March 18, Trump declared that he expected to be arrested within days over the $130,000 payment to Daniels to prevent her from going public about a tryst she claims they had a decade earlier.
In addition to predicting his indictment, Trump called for protests and issued dire warnings that it could lead to “potential death & destruction” that “could be catastrophic for our Country.”
His statement heightened tensions in New York, but the prospect of a quick indictment appeared to fade as the grand jury panel continued to hear witnesses – until Thursday.
A media scrum quickly formed outside the district attorney’s office, along with a few anti-Trump protesters, but the situation remained relatively calm. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before the grand jury in 2019 that he made the payment to Daniels on Trump’s behalf and was later reimbursed.
Prosecutors claimed the checks were not properly registered, and the jury was asked to consider whether there had been a cover-up to help Trump’s campaign by burying the scandal.
The New York investigation is the first of three major investigations into the former president to reach a decision on charges.
Trump is also the subject of felony investigations in Georgia related to the 2020 election and in Washington related to the ex-supporters’ president’s January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Republican frontrunner Trump, widely regarded as the Republican nominee for the 2024 election, has labeled all of the investigations as political persecution.
The impact of an indictment on his election prospects is unknown, with critics and opponents alike raising concerns about the legality of the hush money case.
Detractors fear that if Trump is cleared, it will be easier to dismiss any future indictment in arguably more serious matters, such as Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results, as a “witch hunt.”
The Manhattan charges are also likely to increase turnout among Trump’s supporters, boosting his chances in the Republican Party primary.
On Saturday, Trump held his first presidential campaign rally in Texas, addressing several thousand supporters far fewer than the 15,000 he had expected in Waco, Texas.
“The innocence of people means nothing to these radical left maniacs,” he told the enraged crowd.