Manhattan grand jury indicts former United States President Donald Trump

Sunday, April 2, 2023

The New York County Courthouse.
Image: Ajay Suresh.

On Thursday, a Manhattan, New York City grand jury indicted former US President Donald Trump on over 30 criminal counts, the first time in United States history a president has been charged with a crime. Sources told CNN the charges concern hush money payments his campaign made to two pornographic actresses during the 2016 United States presidential election.

Trump's arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office announced Thursday it had contacted Trump's legal team, including Joe Tacopina, "to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.'s office for arraignment on a [New York State] Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal."

Trump, a Republican, said: "The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to 'Get Trump,' but now they've done the unthinkable — indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference."

Republican Senator Ted Cruz declared the indictment "completely unprecedented [...] [and] a catastrophic escalation in the weaponization of the justice system."

Unlike an impeachment, a conviction unrelated to insurrection would not have legal effects on Trump's 2024 presidential campaign.

In 2016, Michael Cohen, then Trump's lawyer, arranged for American Media Inc., owner of National Enquirer, to pay pornographic actress Karen McDougal US$150,000 for rights to a story about her allegations of an affair with Trump in Beverly Hills, California in 2006 and 2007.

The Enquirer then declined to publish it until the election was over; American Media Inc. said publicly it made the payments specifically to help Trump's campaign.

Cohen paid Stormy Daniels, US$130,000 days before the 2016 election for her to remain silent about her own alleged sexual encounter with Trump in Lake Tahoe, in 2006. The Trump Organization over months reimbursed Cohen US$420,000, while providing him with payments and bonuses it recorded as legal payments.

News outlets found out through leaks of the payments and alleged sexual encounters.

Cohen pleaded guilty to and was federally convicted of campaign finance improprieties in 2018; he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Cohen testified for the prosecution during grand jury hearings, providing emails, recordings, and other evidence.

Trump maintains neither affair occurred.

Trump is under investigation in Fulton County, Georgia, for allegedly attempting to tamper with the state's results during the 2020 presidential election, which he lost, and by federal authorities for allegedly undermining the transfer of the presidency from himself to Joe Biden.