On Thursday, a New York grand jury indicted Donald Trump for hush money payments made to a pornographic actress 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 relation to the payments made prior to the election that sent him to the White House, is certain to upend the current presidential race in which Trump hopes to regain the presidency.
And it will forever define the legacy of the former leader, who survived two impeachments and kept prosecutors at bay over everything from the US Capitol riot to the disappearance of classified documents, only to land in court over a sex scandal involving a 44-year-old adult film actress, Stormy Daniels.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed Thursday evening that it had contacted Trump’s attorneys to “coordinate his surrender” for arraignment in New York, with the felony charges against him to be disclosed at that time.
CNN reported that he could face up to 30 counts of business fraud.
Trump denounced the indictment as “political persecution and election interference,” lashing out at prosecutors and his Democratic opponents and threatening that it would backfire on his successor, President Joe Biden.
Trump’s attorneys have stated that if he is indicted, he will surrender for arraignment, which typically entails fingerprinting, photographing, and possibly handcuffing.
“There are so many incoming messages that I am unable to respond…
Additionally, I don’t want to spill my champagne,’ she tweeted while promoting her #TeamStormy merchandise.
Trump stated on March 18 that he expected to be arrested within days over the payment to Daniels. Daniels received $130,000 weeks before the election that brought Trump to power to prevent her from speaking publicly about a sex encounter she claims to have had with Trump over a decade ago.
In addition to predicting his indictment, Trump called for protests and issued dire warnings that it could result in “potential death and destruction” that “could be catastrophic for our country.”
The possibility of a swift indictment appeared to be diminishing as the grand jury continued to hear from witnesses – until Thursday.
A media scrum and a few anti-Trump protesters quickly gathered outside the district attorney’s office, but the situation remained peaceful. Cohen, who has testified before a grand jury, told Congress in 2019 that he paid Daniels on behalf of Trump and was later reimbursed.
Prosecutors argued that the checks were not properly registered, and the jury was asked to determine whether there had been a cover-up to benefit Trump’s campaign by concealing the scandal.
The New York investigation is the first of three major investigations into the former president to result in charges.
Trump also faces felony investigations in Georgia regarding the 2020 election and in Washington regarding the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by the ex-supporters, president’s who hoped to keep him in office despite losing the election to Joe Biden.
Trump, who is seen as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2024 election, has labelled all of the investigations political persecution.
Concerns about the legal merits of the hush money case have been voiced by both critics and opponents, who are uncertain as to how an indictment would affect his chances at reelection.
Detractors fear that if Trump is exonerated, it will be easier to dismiss as a “witch hunt” any future indictment in arguably more serious matters, such as his efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia.
The Manhattan charges will likely increase turnout among Trump’s core supporters, enhancing his chances in the party’s primary.
Trump held his first presidential campaign rally in Texas on Saturday, addressing several thousand supporters in Waco, Texas, significantly fewer than the 15,000 he had anticipated.
He told the enraged crowd, “The innocence of people makes no difference whatsoever to these radical left maniacs.”