Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a historic reckoning after years of Democrat-run investigations into his personal, political, and business dealings and an abrupt jolt to his bid to retake the White House.
Despite the indictment being expected, the moment still shocked the deeply divided nation.
The exact nature of the charges was unclear Friday because the indictment remained under seal, but they stem from alleged “hush money” payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to CNN, Trump faces a total of 34 criminal charges related to business records.
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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 galvanize support for Trump among Republicans that feel he 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 Manhattan district attorney’s spokesman 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 Tuesday.
“We’re working out those logistics right now,” Tacopina said on NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning. “He’s not gonna hole up in Mar-a-Lago.”
Tacopina insisted that Trump would not take a plea deal: “There’s no crime.”
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The stunning news was met with a variety of reactions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., nearly broke down into tears on Sean Hannity’s primetime show and called for fundraising for Trump’s legal defense. The Washington Post editorial board called the indictment “a poor test case for prosecuting a former president.”
On Fox News, breaking news of the indictment caused audible gasps from the audience —
Audible gasps let out in Fox News' studio as they announce the Trump indictment news pic.twitter.com/FFyx2mvPUp
— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) March 30, 2023
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 commenting.
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 adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public with claims that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him. Trump has denied the claims were real but said he paid the money to protect his wife and children.
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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. On Thursday, the former president was at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, and filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the day.
The indictment comes as Trump has reasserted his control of the Republican Party and seen a surge in support in polls over one-time allies threatening 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.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article