Stormy days for Trump, first ex-US President indicted
NEW YORK — Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, following a probe into $130,000 in hush money that he allegedly paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election that brought him to power.
This makes him the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.
Trump, 76, indicated in a statement on Thursday that he intended to remain in the race.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” he said of the charges which arose from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Trump has appealed to supporters to provide money for a legal defense and has so far raised over $2 million, according to his campaign, since he incorrectly predicted on March 18 that he would be arrested four days later.
The specific charges are not yet known and the indictment will likely be unsealed by a judge in the coming days.
Bragg’s office said it had contacted Trump’s attorney to “coordinate his surrender,” which a person familiar with the matter said could happen early next week.
But Trump’s lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said they will “vigorously fight” the charges.
Surrendering for arraignment would normally involve Trump being fingerprinted and photographed, potentially even handcuffed.
A mug shot from his arraignment and any visuals from his courtroom appearances could further provide fodder for rivals.
Several protesters had gathered outside the courthouse with placards criticizing Trump, as authorities bolstered security after he called for nationwide protests on March 18.
Trump’s exhortation was reminiscent of his rhetoric which prompted the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol after his defeat in the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election.
Trump has escaped legal peril numerous times. In the White House, he weathered two attempts by Congress to remove him from office—the second impeachment following a week after the assault on the US Capitol.
In 2018, he disputed knowing anything about the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. But he later acknowledged reimbursing his former lawyer Michael Cohen for the payment, which he called a “simple private transaction.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign-finance violation that year and served more than a year in prison. He later acknowledged that he coordinated the payments not only to Daniels, but also to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who confirmed as well her relationship with Trump.
Trump has denied having affairs with either Daniels or McDougal.
In a statement following Trump’s indictment, Cohen said “Accountability matters and I stand by my testimony,” while Daniels’ lawyer Clark Brewster said on Twitter that “No one is above the law.”
The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges facing Trump, who faces two other criminal investigations by a special counsel appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland and another by a local prosecutor in Georgia.
Last year, Bragg’s office won the criminal conviction of Trump’s real estate company for tax fraud.
The former president leads his early rivals for his party’s nomination, holding the support of 44 percent of Republicans in a March Reuters-Ipsos poll, compared with the 30 percent for his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce his candidacy.
Meanwhile, Trump’s allies denounced what they described as a vendetta aimed at derailing his 2024 campaign—while DeSantis slammed the indictment as “un-American.”
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said the indictment had “irreparably damaged” the country.
But the top Democrat in the chamber, Adam Schiff—who was lead prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment in 2019—called it “a sobering and unprecedented development.”
“The indictment and arrest of a former president is unique throughout all of American history,” Schiff said in a statement. “But so too is the unlawful conduct for which Trump has been charged.”
The White House has declined to comment.