A grand jury in Manhattan voted to indict former President Donald Trump on Thursday, his lawyer Joe Tacopina said.
The indictment marks the first-ever criminal charge against a former U.S. president in history, and caps weeks of tense anticipation over Trump’s legal jeopardy in New York. The grand jury was convened by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and has been investigating Trump over his involvement in a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump. The indictment was confirmed to VICE News by Tacopina early Thursday evening.
“This is political persecution and election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a lengthy, wide-ranging statement Thursday evening.
“The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.”
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden.”
Earlier, his lawyers issued a short statement.
“President Trump has been indicted. He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this this political prosecution in court,” Trump lawyers Tacopina and Susan Necheles said.
The case revolves around attempts to conceal reimbursement of that payout to Trump’s former attorney and so-called “fixer,” Michael Cohen. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in connection with the transfer of funds, which took place days before the 2016 presidential election, and said Trump directed him to pay Daniels.
The investigation has focused on whether Trump falsified business records to conceal the funds that were given to Cohen. Court documents from Cohen’s criminal case indicate that he received funds that were falsely categorized by Trump’s company as legal expenses.
The exact details of the charges remain hidden, however, because the document is still formally sealed. A criminal indictment is not normally unveiled until a defendant is arraigned. The timeline of Trump’s arraignment also remains unclear. The logistical details of that event—which will be a complicated and fraught procedure for a former commander in chief and current presidential candidate—have been the subject of intense negotiations between New York officials, amid security concerns and fears that Trump may use the moment to create a spectacle and rile up his followers.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has explored various potential criminal charges against Trump over the past few years, including a much broader financial case that prosecutors eventually declined to bring.
The hush money probe that yielded the current criminal charges has been brought back to life so many times by the Manhattan DA’s office that it became known internally as the “zombie” case.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg finally brought it back to life, however, and began showing evidence to the grand jury about the case in January.
Trump has repeatedly denied sleeping with Daniels, and insisted he did nothing wrong.
The Manhattan indictment isn’t even the end of Trump’s legal jeopardy.
Trump also remains under scrutiny in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is weighing whether to charge Trump over his attempts to reverse his 2020 election defeat. Willis said in January that charging decisions in her case are “imminent.”
Meanwhile, Special Counsel Jack Smith is leading a federal probe into Trump’s role in attempting to overturn the election and the violent aftermath at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and also into whether he broke the law by hoarding documents bearing classified markings at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
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