Manhattan jury indicts Trump after a probe into hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, making him first ex-US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for White House.
A New York grand jury has voted to indict former US president Donald Trump over hush money payments made to an adult movie actress, Stormy Daniels, ahead of the 2016 election.
The felony indictment, reported widely by US media on Thursday and filed under seal by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will likely be announced in the coming days.
Trump immediately slammed the decision as he raged against prosecutors and his political opponents.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” he said in a statement. “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,” he said.
In a five-paragraph statement released within minutes of the indictment news breaking, Trump vowed to take revenge as he plots to return to the White House in the 2024 election.
“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,” he said.
“Weaponising 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.
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,” he said.
Trump, who held his first 2024 election campaign rally last weekend, added “We will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office.”
His second son Eric joined in the blistering salvo.
“This is third world prosecutorial misconduct,” Eric tweeted. “It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”
Trump is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday, his lawyer Susan Necheles said.
“We do expect the arraignment to occur on Tuesday,” Necheles said in an email, without elaborating.
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.
The lawyer for Daniels, meanwhile, said that the indictment of Trump shows that “no one is above the law.” “The indictment of Donald Trump is no cause for joy,” Clark Brewster tweeted. “Now let truth and justice prevail.”
The 76-year-old Republican would become the first former or sitting president to be charged with a crime — upending the 2024 White House race in which Trump is running to regain office.
On March 18 Trump had declared he expected to be arrested within days over the payment to Daniels — who received $130,000 weeks before the 2016 election to stop her from going public about the affair she says she had with Trump a decade earlier.
But after days of suspense — setting New York on edge for possible protests — the grand jury panel convened by a Manhattan prosecutor continued to hear witnesses, and the prospect of an immediate indictment appeared to recede.
Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, who has testified before the grand jury, told Congress in 2019 that he made the payment to Daniels on Trump’s behalf and was later reimbursed.
The New York investigation is the first to reach a charging decision out of three major probes into the former president.
Trump also faces felony investigations in Georgia relating to the 2020 election and in Washington over the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by the ex-president’s supporters, who hoped to keep him in office after his election loss.
Trump has branded all of the investigations “witch hunts” and political persecutions.
Trump indictment has ‘irreparably damaged’ country
Top US Republican Kevin McCarthy said the decision to indict Trump had “irreparably damaged” the country as the former president’s allies launched a fierce attack on Democrats and legal officials.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, “has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election,” House speaker McCarthy said.
“The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”