A New York grand jury on Thursday indicted Donald Trump over hush money payments made to a porn star during his 2016 campaign, making him the first former US president to face criminal charges.
The historic indictment of the 76-year-old Republican — who denies all wrongdoing in connection with the payments made ahead of the election that sent him to the White House — is certain to upend the current presidential race in which Trump hopes to regain office.
And it will forever mark the legacy of the former leader, who survived two impeachments and kept prosecutors at bay over everything from the US Capitol riot to missing classified files — only to land in court over a sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels, a 44-year-old adult movie actress.
Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles told AFP she expects he will be arraigned on Tuesday next week.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office confirmed that it had contacted Trump’s lawyers Thursday evening to “coordinate his surrender” in New York — with the felony charges against him to be revealed at that point.
Trump slammed the indictment as “political persecution and election interference,” raging against prosecutors and his Democratic opponents and vowing that it would backfire on his successor, President Joe Biden.
Surrendering for arraignment over what CNN has reported could be as many as 30 counts related to business fraud would normally involve being fingerprinted and photographed, potentially even handcuffed.
In the Republican camp, Trump’s allies and sons denounced what they say is a vendetta aimed at derailing his 2024 campaign — while his expected challenger for the party nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, slammed the indictment as “un-American.”
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said the indictment had “irreparably damaged” the country. Trump’s former vice president and possible 2024 challenger Mike Pence called it an “outrage” that would only “further serve to divide” the United States.
But the top Democrat Adam Schiff — lead prosecutor of Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 — called it “a sobering and unprecedented development.”
“The indictment and arrest of a former president is unique throughout all of American history,” Schiff said in a statement. “But so too is the unlawful conduct for which Trump has been charged.”
Daniels welcomed the development with her characteristic aplomb.
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