Donald Trump became the first former US president to be charged with a crime on Thursday after a New York grand jury indicted him for hush money payments made to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The 76-year-old Republican’s historic indictment, which comes despite his denial of any wrongdoing in relation to the payments made before the election that put him in the White House, is guaranteed to upend the current presidential contest in which Trump intends to win back the White House.
And it will eternally symbolize the memory of the former president, who overcame two impeachments, resisted prosecution in cases involving the US Capitol riot and missing confidential documents, only to find herself in court for a s.ex scandal involving adult film star Stormy Daniels, 44.
Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles told AFP she anticipates arraignment to take place on Tuesday of the following week.
Trump’s attorneys were contacted Thursday night to “arrange his surrender” in New York, with the criminal accusations against him to be made public at that time, according to the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.
Trump blasted the indictment as “political persecution and electoral meddling,” lashing out at the police and his Democratic rivals while threatening his successor, Joe Biden, with the consequences.
As reported by CNN, surrendering for arraignment over up to 30 counts of corporate fraud would typically include being fingerprinted, photographed, and sometimes even handcuffed.
In the Republican camp, Trump’s allies and sons blasted the indictment as “un-American,” while his anticipated opponent for the party’s nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, blasted it as a vendetta meant to destroy his 2024 campaign.
The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, claimed that the indictment had “irreparably destroyed” the nation. Mike Pence, a potential rival to Trump in 2024, termed it a “outrage” that will only “further serve to divide” the country.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat and the prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment attempt in 2019, termed it “a frightening and unprecedented development,” nevertheless.
“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.
“I have so many messages coming in that I can’t respond…also don’t want to spill my champagne,” she tweeted while also plugging her #TeamStormy merchandise.
– Possible protests –
On March 18, Trump said he anticipated to be arrested soon for paying Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a tryst she claims they had ten years earlier. Daniels got the money weeks before the election that put Trump in office.
Trump predicted his indictment and simultaneously called for protests, expressing concern that it may result in “possible murder & destruction” that “could be disastrous for our Country.”
His remarks put New York on edge for potential demonstrations, but the likelihood of an immediate indictment seemed to fade as the grand jury panel went on to hear testimony — until Thursday.
Although there were a few anti-Trump protestors and a media throng outside the district attorney’s office, the environment was otherwise calm.
In 2019, Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen, who has testified before the grand jury, told Congress that he paid Daniels on the president’s behalf and was subsequently reimbursed.
The jury was instructed to evaluate if there had been a cover-up meant to help Trump’s campaign by burying the problem after prosecutors claimed the checks were not legally recorded.
Of of the three significant investigations involving the former president, the New York investigation is the first to make a judgment on charges.
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 to Joe Biden.
– Republican frontrunner –
Trump, who is widely regarded as the leading candidate to represent the Republican Party in the 2024 presidential election, has called all of the investigations political retaliation.
His opponents and critics both have expressed doubts about the legal viability of the hush money issue, making the effect of an indictment on his chances of winning the race unpredictable.
Detractors are concerned that if Trump is exonerated, it may be simpler to dismiss any subsequent indictment in presumably more serious cases as a “witch hunt,” such as Trump’s attempts to rescind Georgia’s election results.
The Manhattan accusations will probably increase support for Trump among his supporters and increase his chances of winning the party primary.
Trump staged his first presidential campaign rally in Texas on Saturday, addressing several thousand supporters — far fewer than the 15,000 he had expected — in the city of Waco, Texas.
“The innocence of people makes no difference whatsoever to these radical left maniacs,” he told the fired-up crowd.