President Donald Trump
•Prosecutors indict him for paying to silence claims of extramarital sexual encounter
•It’s political persecution, Democrats will regret this,’ he says
Former United States President Donald Trump was yesterday indicted in relation to a New York investigation into an alleged hush-money payment made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
After weeks of speculation, a New York grand jury voted to indict Trump, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, making him the first former president to face criminal prosecution in US history.
Trump has already announced plans to seek re-election in 2024, and an indictment would not preclude him from running.
In 2016, adult film star Stormy Daniels contacted media outlets offering to sell her account of what she said was an adulterous affair she had with Donald Trump in 2006.
Trump’s team got wind of this, and his lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels to keep quiet. This is not illegal.
However, when Trump reimbursed Cohen, the record for the payment says it was for legal fees.
Prosecutors say this amounts to Trump falsifying business records, which is a misdemeanour – a criminal offence in New York.
Prosecutors could also potentially allege that this breaks election law, because his attempt to hide his payments to Daniels were motivated by not wanting voters to know he had an affair with her.
Covering up a crime by falsifying records would be a felony, which is a more serious charge.
The office of Manhattan issued a statement saying prosecutors are working with Trump’s lawyers to arrange his surrender.
It also affirmed that, for now, the charges will remain under seal.
“Guidance will be provided when the arraignment [court appearance] date is selected,” the district attorney’s office said through a spokesperson.
Sources in the district attorney’s office have however confirmed that Trump will be arraigned on Tuesday next week.
My indictment is political persecution- Trump
In a statement released through his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump called the indictment “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”
He said the case was part of a coordinated “witch hunt” against him, adding that he is completely innocent.
Trump said earlier this month that he faced potential arrest over the case. He is expected to be fingerprinted and photographed when he surrenders to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York early next week.
…urges supporters to protest
Trump also called on his supporters to protest in a fiery social media post that raised concerns about potential violence — especially in light of the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
He also appealed for more money for his legal defence, raising more than $2m since March 18, according to his campaign.
Republicans, Democrats react
The Republican party largely rallied around Trump in the aftermath of the indictment news, with his second oldest son, Eric Trump, calling the indictment “third world prosecutorial misconduct”.
“It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year,” he said on Friday.
For his part, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024, denounced the indictment as “un-American.”
House Republican Chair Elise Stefanik – a staunch Trump ally and the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives – described the indictment as an “unprecedented election interference” and a “dark day for America”.
In a statement posted online, Stefanik accused Trump’s political opponents of suppressing the “will and voice of the American people”.
Trump indictment is an ‘outrage’- Mike Pence
Mike Pence described the indictment of his former boss an “outrage” and “great disservice to the country”.
There is no reason, he added to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, to call for people to protest. Donald Trump “can take care of himself in a courtroom and he ought to be focussing on that right now.”
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise described the news as a “sham New York indictment.”
He called it “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponising government to attack their political opponents.”
Jim Jordan, chairman of the House judiciary committee, is more succinct in his response – simply writing “outrageous” on Twitter.
Democrats, meanwhile, greeted news of Trump’s criminal charges with a rallying cry that “no one is above the law”, no matter how powerful.
US President Joe Biden has not commented on his predecessor’s indictment and there’s been little official response from the Democratic National Committee.
But a few Democrats have spoken out, including senior party figure Nancy Pelosi, long one of Trump’s staunchest critics.
She tweeted: “No-one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence.
“Hopefully, the former president will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right,” she said, adding that the grand jury that had voted for the indictment “acted upon the facts and the law”.
Cohen, Trump’s convicted ex lawyer speaks
Michael Cohen, who arranged hush money payments for Trump, said his former boss’ indictment is just the beginning of a process towards accountability.
Cohen served three years in jail over the payoffs to two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump, with the intent of influencing the outcome of the 2016 elections. He was also convicted of tax evasion.
“Today’s indictment is not the end of the chapter. It’s rather the beginning, now that the charges have been filed,” Cohen told MSNBC
Stormy Daniels reacts
Daniels herself celebrated Thursday’s news by thanking her supporters on Twitter, quipping she doesn’t “want to spill my champagne”.
NYPD prepares for deployment
Members of the New York Police Department have been ordered to be “prepared for deployment” in the wake of the Trump indictment, the New York Times has reported.
Citing an internal memo, the Times has reported that officers have been told to “remain prepared for mobilization at any time during their assigned tour.”
Last week, US media reported that the NYPD – as well as other local, state and federal police agencies – had been preparing and conducting security assessments ahead of a possible indictment.
Alvin Bragg—The Prosecutor
The case against Donald Trump stems from a nearly five-year-long investigation led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
The probe began under then-DA Cyrus Vance Jr while Trump was still in the White House. It has since been taken over by his predecessor, Alvin Bragg, 49, who is the first person of colour elected to the office.
Bragg, who is black, claims he helped sue the Trump administration more than 100 times during its four-year term.
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