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Updated Mar 31, 2023, 12:14pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Trump indicted in Stormy Daniels hush money case

Former President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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The News

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, the New York Times first reported on Thursday.

It is the first time in U.S. history that a former president has been criminally indicted.

Trump has been under a grand jury investigation for his alleged role in giving “hush money” to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It is unclear what the charges are against Trump as the indictment is still under seal by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and is expected to be announced in the coming days.

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In a statement provided to Semafor, Trump called the indictment a “political persecution,” “election Interference at the highest level in history,” and a “witch hunt.”

“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,” the statement said.

Trump also called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “a disgrace,” adding that “this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden.”

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Bragg confirmed the indictment in a statement saying that his office had reached out to Trump’s team to coordinate a surrender pending an official arraignment, details of which will be provided later. One of Trump’s lawyers told the Times that he is expected to turn himself in on Tuesday.

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Know More

The news comes after The New York Times recently revealed that the Manhattan’s district attorney’s office had offered Trump an opportunity to testify before the grand jury, often an indication that a defendant will face criminal charges.

Trump’s lawyers previously said that the former president would surrender to charges if they were issued, but on the conservative social media platform Truth Social, Trump rallied supporters to protest and “take our nation back.”

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Daniels’ lawyer previously said she met with prosecutors, “responded to questions and... agreed to make herself available as a witness.”

On Thursday, an attorney for Daniels’ reacted to the indictment saying, “The indictment of Donald Trump is no cause for joy. The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail. No one is above the law.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer who has also been implicated in the scheme, said that he stands by previous testimony in which he detailed Trump’s role in the scandal.

“I do take solace in validating the adage that no one is above the law; not even a former President,” he said in a statement. “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.”

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Step Back

Daniels said she and Trump had an affair in 2006 and that Cohen later paid her in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement shortly before the 2016 election. She said that the NDA was invalid because Trump himself never signed the document.

Bragg was tasked with proving that Trump purposely falsified business records by removing traces that he was reimbursing Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to paying off Daniels with $130,000.

Cohen has previously testified that Trump ordered the payment and later reimbursed him. Prosecutors also alleged that the Trump Organization “falsely accounted” for the monthly reimbursement payments to Cohen.

Legal experts told The New York Times that it would be challenging to convict or sentence Trump as the case against him largely relies on untested and risky legal theory. Trump could face a maximum of four years in prison if convicted.

The former president is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and Washington, D.C. for his role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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The View From the White House

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with reporters briefly on Friday morning but declined to comment on Trump’s indictment.

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