Manhattan grand jury votes to indict Donald Trump for hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign in an attempt to silence allegations of extramarital sexual encounters. This marks the first criminal prosecution against a former US President and comes as a blow to Trump’s potential plans to return to the White House in 2024. The New York prosecutor confirmed the formal charges against Trump and is working on their delivery.
Trump, who denies any wrongdoing and has attacked the investigation on numerous occasions, calls the indictments a ‘political persecution’. The indictment follows years of investigations into Trump’s commercial, political, and personal dealings. Critics view the indictment as evidence of Trump’s dishonest and fraudulent ascent to power, while his supporters believe he is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
Trump’s attorneys, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina assert that he “did not commit any crime” and they will “vigorously fight this political process in court.” The district attorney’s investigation is focused on the money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who Trump feared would divulge allegations of extramarital sexual encounters with him. Trump is scheduled to turn himself into the authorities next week, although the details are still being worked out.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is taking on an unusual case that two previous prosecutors refused to take the politically risky step of seeking charges against Trump. Prior to the indictment, Trump lashed out at the investigation on social media and called on supporters to protest on his behalf, which led to increased security around the Manhattan criminal courthouse.
Apart from this case, Trump is facing potential legal risks as he tries to assert control over the Republican Party and keep a number of former allies seeking to challenge him for the party’s nomination for president at bay. The district attorney in Atlanta has spent two years investigating attempts by Trump and his allies to interfere in the vote count in Georgia in 2020. In addition, a special prosecutor from the Department of Justice is investigating Trump for keeping confidential documents at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate and for his attempts to overturn his electoral defeat.
The fate of the investigation of hush payments for the two women seemed uncertain until news began to circulate in early March that Bragg had invited Trump to testify before the grand jury, an indication that the prosecution was close to filing charges. Cohen, the former Trump lawyer, testified briefly in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the accusations made against Trump. Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000 to remain silent about a sexual encounter with Trump, and the Trump Organization reimbursed him along with additional payments and bonuses that were internally recorded as legal expenses. In 2016, Cohen also arranged for the National Enquirer tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 to hush up her affair with Trump.
New York federal prosecutors indicted Cohen in 2018 for violating federal campaign finance laws, arguing that the payments amounted to impermissible aid to Trump’s presidential campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty to these charges and unrelated tax evasion charges and served time in federal prison.