Washington: In a political bombshell, Donald Trump has been indicted by a New York grand jury, the first ever serving or former US president to face criminal charges.
The possible spectacle of Trump’s appearance in Manhattan on Tuesday before a judge as the first sitting or former president to face criminal charges could further divide the world’s most powerful country.
Trump is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden next year. Even before news of the indictment broke, he had been seeking to use the legal threats to raise money and rally his most faithful supporters.
The first US president to have tried to overthrow an election defeat, whose false claims of election fraud inspired the deadly US Capitol assault on JanUARY 6, 2021, signalLed that he will continue to campaign even as he faces charges.
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.
Those specific charges have not yet been made public as the indictment remains under seal, but CNN on Thursday reported Trump faced more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
While Trump claimed in a social media post on March 18 that he would be arrested in days, Trump’s first reaction at the news was “shock,” said one of his attorneys, Joe Tacopina, in a Friday interview on ABC.
“We’ll go in there and we’ll proceed to see a judge at some point, plead not guilty, start talking about filing motions, which we will do immediately and very aggressively,” Tacopina said.
- Former US president Donald Trump faces fingerprints, mug shots after historic indictment
- US: Who is the Manhattan District Attorney prosecuting former president Donald Trump?
- US: Former President Donald Trump indictment throws 2024 presidential race into uncharted territory
- Among 160 years of presidential scandals, Trump stands alone
- Trump charged by grand jury - first US president to face indictment
Trump, 76, said he was “completely innocent” and accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the Democrat who led the investigation, of trying to hurt his electoral chances.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a statement.
Here’s what happened on Thursday and what is expected to happen next:
The grand jury, which meets in secret, voted to indict the 76-year-old former Republican president following an investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
While the indictment remains under seal, the charges against Trump are believed to relate to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The grand jury, which has been meeting since January, indicted Trump after hearing testimony from a number of witnesses.
Among those who testified was Trump’s ex-personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who has admitted arranging a $130,000 payment to Daniels to buy her silence about an affair she had with Trump in 2006.
Trump was invited to testify in person but declined.
Biden, who was traveling to Mississippi for the day, did not answer several questions on the subject from journalists gathered to witness his departure from the White House.
Bragg said his office had been in touch with Trump’s attorneys to “coordinate his surrender” for arraignment in New York at a future date.
At an arraignment, a defendant is presented with the charges facing them and generally enters a plea.
A judge then decides whether they should be released on bail or taken into custody.
Extra security has been in place for days around the Manhattan courthouse where Trump is expected to make his first appearance.
CBS News, citing Trump’s defense team, said the plan is for the former president to surrender early next week. CBS said the Secret Service would be in charge of the arrangements.
Prior to an arraignment, a defendant has their fingerprints and a mugshot taken.
Trump, who insists he is “completely innocent,” could refuse to surrender to the New York authorities, forcing them to seek his extradition from his Florida residence.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential Trump rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said that his state would “not assist in an extradition request.”
Legal experts said any attempt to fight extradition would at best result in a delay and Trump would eventually have to appear in New York to face the charges.
Next judicial steps
Once Trump is arraigned and enters a plea, there will be a series of preliminary court hearings to set a date for a trial and decide on witnesses and evidence.
A defendant can avoid going to trial by entering into a plea agreement with prosecutors, in exchange for a lighter sentence, for example.
Given Trump’s proclamations of innocence that is unlikely.
2024 White House candidacy
Trump can - and undoubtedly will - pursue his 2024 White House campaign despite facing criminal charges.
Nothing in the Constitution prevents someone from running for president while facing charges, and even a conviction would not bar them from the nation’s highest office.
The 14th Amendment does prohibit anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding elected office.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection” for the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress by his supporters, but he was acquitted by the Senate.
A special counsel is currently looking into Trump’s role in the January 6 assault on Congress and the former president could still potentially face charges on that front.
What did Trump say?
Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America:
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats - the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country - have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement. You remember it just like I do: Russia, Russia, Russia; the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine; Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2; the illegal and unconstitutional Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this.
“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.
“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace. Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time!
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden. The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our Movement, and our Party - united and strong - will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”