NEW YORK — Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a landmark count after years of investigation into his personal, political and business dealings and a sudden blow to his bid to retake the White House.
The exact nature of the allegations was unclear Friday because the indictment was under seal, but they appear to stem from payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of extramarital sexual encounters. Prosecutors said they were working to coordinate Trump’s surrender, which could happen as early as next week. He did not say whether he wanted to seek prison time in the event of a conviction, a development that would not deter Trump from seeking and assuming the presidency.
The indictment, the first against a former US president, injects a local district attorney’s office into the center of a national presidential race and initiates criminal proceedings in a city the former president called home for decades. Coming at a time of deep political division, the allegations are likely to reinforce rather than dialectical approach those who see accountability as long overdue and who, like Trump, feel that Republicans have been tipped off by Democratic prosecutors for political purposes. being targeted for.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation, called the indictment “political victimization” and predicted it would hurt Democrats in 2024. In a statement confirming the allegations, defense attorneys Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Trump “did not commit” any crime. We will vigorously fight this political case in the court.”
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed the indictment and said prosecutors had contacted Trump’s defense team to coordinate the surrender. Tacopina said that Trump is “likely” to turn himself in on Tuesday.
“We’re working out those logistics right now,” Tacopina said Friday morning on NBC’s “Today” show. “He’s not going to hole up in Mar-a-Lago.”
Tacopina insisted that Trump would not take a plea deal: “There is no crime.”
Trump was asked to surrender on Friday, but his lawyers said the Secret Service needed extra 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 could not discuss security details publicly.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg left his office Thursday evening without comment.
The case focuses on older allegations from a period in 2016 when Trump’s celebrity past clashed with his political ambitions. Prosecutors spent months scrutinizing money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who they feared would go public with claims of extramarital sex with them.
The timing of the indictment appeared to be a surprise to Trump campaign officials, following news reports that the possibility of criminal charges was weeks away. The former president was at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the day.
For a man whose presidency was once defined by erratic criteria, the indictment sets up another never-before-seen spectacle — a former president having his fingerprints and mug shot taken, and then faced indictment. For security reasons, his booking is expected to be carefully choreographed to avoid crowding inside or outside the courthouse.
The indictment also means that Trump will have to simultaneously fight for his freedom and political future, as well as face potentially more dangerous legal threats, including the hoardings he and his allies have put up with in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Also includes checking for cancellation attempts. Hundreds of classified documents.
In fact, New York was recently seen as a possible contender 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 not related to his much-publicized efforts to overturn the election.
The indictment comes as Trump seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and snub one-time allies who could challenge his bid for the presidential nomination. An expected major rival in the race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the indictment “un-American” in a statement Thursday night that did not explicitly mention Trump by name.
In bringing the charges, Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, is embracing an unusual case that had been investigated by two previous sets of prosecutors, both of whom have shied away from taking the politically explosive step of seeking Trump’s indictment. was refused. The case could also turn on the testimony of a key witness, former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges arising from secret money payments, including making false statements.
The fate of the investigation seemed uncertain until word got out in early March that Bragg had invited Trump to testify before a grand jury, a sign that prosecutors were close to bringing charges.
Trump’s lawyers declined the invitation, but a lawyer closely associated with the former president testified briefly in an effort to undermine Cohen’s credibility.
Trump himself predicted he would soon be indicted, issuing a statement earlier this month in which he predicted imminent arrests and called for protests. He did not reiterate that call in a fresh statement on Thursday, but told the New York Police Department to be fully mobilized and ready to respond to any potential protests or unrest.
At the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier when they met at a celebrity golf tournament.
Cohen was then reimbursed by Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, which rewarded the lawyer with bonuses and additional payments logged internally as legal expenses. Over several months, Cohen said, the company paid him $420,000.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen arranged for the National Enquirer, publisher of the supermarket tabloid, to pay McDougal $150,000 to uncover Trump ties in a journalistically questionable practice known as “catch-and-kill”. to end his story.
The payments to the women were intended to buy privacy, but they backtracked almost immediately when details of the arrangements were leaked to the news media.
Federal prosecutors in New York eventually charged Cohen with violating federal campaign finance laws in 2018, arguing that the payments amounted to impermissible help for Trump’s presidential campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty to those charges and unrelated tax evasion counts and served time in federal prison.
Trump was implicated in court filings as having knowledge of the arrangements—referred to specifically as “Individual 1” in the charging documents—but US prosecutors declined to press charges against him at the time. The Justice Department has a longstanding policy against impeaching a sitting president in federal court.
Bragg’s predecessor as district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., launched the investigation in 2019. While that investigation initially focused on secret money payments, Vance’s prosecutors have moved on to other matters, including an examination of Trump’s business dealings and tax strategies.
Vance eventually accused the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer of tax fraud related to fringe benefits paid to some of the company’s top executives.
The hush money case became known around the DA’s office as the “Zombie Case”, with prosecutors revisiting it from time to time but not choosing to press charges.
Bragg saw it differently. After the Trump Organization was indicted on tax fraud charges in December, he hired longtime white-collar prosecutor Matthew Colangelo to oversee the investigation and convene a new grand jury to bring fresh eyes to the well-worn case. Closed your eyes
Cohen became a key witness, meeting with prosecutors nearly two dozen times, turning over emails, recordings and other evidence, and testifying before the grand jury.
Trump has long denounced the Manhattan investigation as “the greatest witch hunt in history”. He also lashed out at Bragg, calling the prosecutor a racist against white people.
The criminal charges in New York are the latest salvo in a deepening schism between Trump and his hometown — a reckoning for the one-time favorite son who grew up rich and famous building skyscrapers, hobnobbing with celebrities and the pages of the city’s gossipy press. Used to enhance the beauty of.
Trump, who famously said 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 liberties in a city where 75 More than 100% of voters – many of them potential jurors – went against him in the last election.
Tucker and Long reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bobby Cana Calvan, Jill Colvin and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.