- A New York grand jury indicted Donald Trump in connection with a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels made by his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
- Trump is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime.
- Trump is expected to turn himself in to authorities next week, his attorney said.
Trump slams indictment, calls indict ment ‘political persecution and election interference’
A New York grand jury voted Thursday to indict former President Donald Trump in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, his lawyer told CNBC.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told NBC News that Trump is expected to surrender to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office early next week. Trump is expected to be arraigned Tuesday, according to Susan Necheles, another Trump lawyer. The former president is tentatively expected to appear before Judge Juan Merchan after 2:15 p.m. that day in Manhattan, two officials told NBC News. That is subject to change.
Trump is the first former president to be charged with a crime, a development that will reverberate around the country. The indictment comes as he is the leading contender seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed the indictment Thursday evening.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected,” said a spokesperson for Bragg’s office.
The number of charges Trump faces in the indictment was not disclosed Thursday. And it was not known whether the indictment was limited to conduct related to the payment to Daniels or if it also includes conduct surrounding a separate hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal by the publisher of The National Enquirer. Trump’s lawyers told CNBC on Thursday night they didn’t know the charges.
Trump was caught off guard by the news of the indictment, according to various media reports. He blasted the decision, calling it “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.” Just Wednesday, he had said in a social media post that he had “gained such respect for this grand jury.”
Trump was filming his TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” at the time of that purported tryst, and was married to his current wife, Melania Trump, who had given birth to their son, Barron, a few months earlier.
The Trump Organization in business records described the reimbursement to Cohen as a legal expense.
Falsifying business records is normally a misdemeanor under New York law, but can be elevated to a felony if the misstatement was done to cover up another crime.
Trump denies having sex with Daniels or committing wrongdoing of any kind.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”
Tacopina and Necheles said: “President Trump has been indicted. He did not commit any crime.”
“We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in Court,” the defense lawyers said.
The indictment, which will be prosecuted by Bragg’s office, is the first in what could end up being several criminal cases against Trump, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice in two separate criminal cases. One is related to his efforts to overturn the Electoral College victory of President Joe Biden in the 2020 election as he made false claims of widespread ballot fraud in the popular vote that year. The other probe is focused on Trump’s removal of government records from the White House, and whether he obstructed justice by keeping them at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than a year as government officials sought their return.
A state prosecutor in Atlanta is also separately investigating Trump and a number of his allies over their attempt to get Georgia officials to reverse his loss to Biden in the state in 2020.
Cohen, in a statement to NBC News, said: “For the first time in our Country’s history, a President (current or former) of the United States has been indicted. I take no pride in issuing this statement and wish to also remind everyone of the presumption of innocence; as provided by the due process clause.”
“However, I do take solace in validating the adage that no one is above the law; not even a former President,” Cohen said. “Today’s indictment is not the end of this chapter; but rather, just the beginning. Now that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself. The two things I wish to say at this time is that accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided to” the Manhattan district attorney, he said.
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The Manhattan prosecution of Trump comes more than four years after Cohen, who loyally served him for years before that, turned on Trump and began cooperating with federal, state and local law enforcement officials in New York.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal criminal charges that included campaign finance violations for both the Daniels payment and a separate payment he facilitated to McDougal, the former Playboy model, to buy her silence over an affair she said she started with Trump in 2006.
The Federal Election Commission in 2021 fined the publisher of The National Enquirer $187,500 for “knowingly and willfully” violating campaign law by paying McDougal a $150,000 “catch and kill” fee to buy her story and bury it ahead of the 2016 election.
Michael Cohen, former attorney for former U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to the New York Courthouse in New York City, U.S., March 13, 2023.
Cohen said the payments were designed to protect Trump’s chances in that election, when he faced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump escaped punishment from the FEC.
Cohen met 20 times with investigators from the DA’s office before testifying over two days last week before the grand jury in Manhattan Criminal Court. That panel began meeting in late January and heard testimony from multiple witnesses before Cohen.
Trump and a number of Republican elected officials have accused Bragg, who is a Democrat, of pursuing the investigation to harm him politically.