Donald Trump Indicted by NY Grand Jury 03/31 06:07
Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a historic
reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, political and
business dealings and an abrupt jolt to his bid to retake the White House.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a
historic reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, political
and business dealings and an abrupt jolt to his bid to retake the White House.
The exact nature of the charges was unclear Friday because the indictment
remained under seal, but they stem from payments made during the 2016
presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter.
Prosecutors said they were working to coordinate Trump's surrender, which could
happen early next week. They did not say whether they intended to seek prison
time in the event of a conviction, a development that wouldn't prevent Trump
from seeking and assuming the presidency.
The indictment, the first against a former U.S. president, injects a local
district attorney's office into the heart of a national presidential race and
ushers in criminal proceedings in a city that the ex-president for decades
called home. Arriving at a time of deep political divisions, the charges are
likely to reinforce rather than reshape dueling perspectives of those who see
accountability as long overdue and those who, like Trump, feel the Republican
is being targeted for political purposes by a Democratic prosecutor.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly assailed the
investigation, called the indictment "political persecution" and predicted it
would damage Democrats in 2024. In a statement confirming the charges, defense
lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Trump "did not commit any
crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court."
A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney's office confirmed the
indictment and said prosecutors had reached out to Trump's defense team to
coordinate a surrender. Tacopina said Trump is "likely" to turn himself in on
Trump was asked to surrender Friday but his lawyers said the Secret Service
needed additional time as they made security preparations, two people familiar
with the matter told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of
anonymity because they couldn't publicly discuss security details.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg left his office Thursday evening without
The case centers on well-chronicled allegations from a period in 2016 when
Trump's celebrity past collided with his political ambitions. Prosecutors for
months scrutinized money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy
model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public with claims that they had
extramarital sexual encounters with him.
The timing of the indictment appeared to come as a surprise to Trump
campaign officials following news reports that criminal charges were likely
weeks away. The former president was at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, on
Thursday and filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the
For a man whose presidency was defined by one obliterated norm after
another, the indictment sets up yet another never-before-seen spectacle -- a
former president having his fingerprints and mug shot taken, and then facing
arraignment. For security reasons, his booking is expected to be carefully
choreographed to avoid crowds inside or outside the courthouse.
The prosecution also means that Trump will have to simultaneously fight for
his freedom and political future, while also fending off potentially more
perilous legal threats, including investigations into attempts by him and his
allies to undo the 2020 presidential election as well as into the hoarding of
hundreds of classified documents.
In fact, New York was until recently seen as an unlikely contender to be the
first place to prosecute Trump, who continues to face long-running
investigations in Atlanta and Washington that could also result in charges.
Unlike those inquiries, the Manhattan case concerns allegations against Trump
that occurred before he became president and are unrelated to his
much-publicized efforts to overturn the election.
The indictment comes as Trump seeks to reassert control of the Republican
Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who may threaten his bid for the
presidential nomination. An expected leading rival in the race, Florida Gov.
Ron DeSantis, called the indictment "un-American" in a statement Thursday night
that pointedly did not mention Trump's name.
In bringing the charges, Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, is
embracing an unusual case that was investigated by two previous sets of
prosecutors, both of which declined to take the politically explosive step of
seeking Trump's indictment. The case may also turn in part on the testimony of
a key witness, Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded
guilty to federal charges arising from the hush money payments, including
making false statements.
The probe's fate seemed uncertain until word got out in early March that
Bragg had invited Trump to testify before a grand jury, a signal that
prosecutors were close to bringing charges.
Trump's attorneys declined the invitation, but a lawyer closely allied with
the former president briefly testified in an effort to undercut Cohen's
Trump himself raised anticipation that he would be indicted soon, issuing a
statement earlier this month in which he predicted an imminent arrest and
called for protests. He did not repeat that call in a fresh statement Thursday,
but the New York Police Department told its 36,000 officers to be fully
mobilized and ready to respond to any potential protests or unrest.
Late in the 2016 presidential campaign, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep
her silent about what she says was a sexual encounter with Trump a decade
earlier after they met at a celebrity golf tournament.
Cohen was then reimbursed by Trump's company, the Trump Organization, which
also rewarded the lawyer with bonuses and extra payments logged internally as
legal expenses. Over several months, Cohen said, the company paid him $420,000.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen also arranged for the publisher of the supermarket
tabloid the National Enquirer to pay McDougal $150,000 to squelch her story of
a Trump affair in a journalistically dubious practice known as "catch-and-kill."
The payments to the women were intended to buy secrecy, but they backfired
almost immediately as details of the arrangements leaked to the news media.
Federal prosecutors in New York ultimately charged Cohen in 2018 with
violating federal campaign finance laws, arguing that the payments amounted to
impermissible help to Trump's presidential campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty to
those charges and unrelated tax evasion counts and served time in federal
Trump was implicated in court filings as having knowledge of the
arrangements -- obliquely referred to in charging documents as "Individual 1"
-- but U.S. prosecutors at the time balked at bringing charges against him. The
Justice Department has a longtime policy against indicting a sitting president
in federal court.
Bragg's predecessor as district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., then took up the
investigation in 2019. While that probe initially focused on the hush money
payments, Vance's prosecutors moved on to other matters, including an
examination of Trump's business dealings and tax strategies.
Vance ultimately charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial
officer with tax fraud related to fringe benefits paid to some of the company's
The hush money matter became known around the D.A.'s office as the "zombie
case," with prosecutors revisiting it periodically but never opting to bring
Bragg saw it differently. After the Trump Organization was convicted on the
tax fraud charges in December, he brought fresh eyes to the well-worn case,
hiring longtime white-collar prosecutor Matthew Colangelo to oversee the probe
and convening a new grand jury.
Cohen became a key witness, meeting with prosecutors nearly two-dozen times,
turning over emails, recordings and other evidence and testifying before the
Trump has long decried the Manhattan investigation as "the greatest witch
hunt in history." He has also lashed out at Bragg, calling the prosecutor, who
is Black, racist against white people.
The criminal charges in New York are the latest salvo in a profound schism
between Trump and his hometown -- a reckoning for a one-time favorite son who
grew rich and famous building skyscrapers, hobnobbing with celebrities and
gracing the pages of the city's gossip press.
Trump, who famously riffed in 2016 that he "could stand in the middle of
Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody" and "wouldn't lose voters," now faces a threat
to his liberty in a borough where more than 75% of voters -- many of them
potential jurors -- went against him in the last election.