On March 31, prosecutors and defence lawyers announced that a Manhattan grand jury had indicted Donald Trump, making him the first former U.S. President to face a criminal charge.
The indictment centres on payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter. This development comes after years of investigations into Mr. Trump’s business, political, and personal dealings.
The indictment has brought a local district attorney’s office into the heart of a national presidential race and initiated criminal proceedings in a city that the ex-President called home for decades. The charges arrive during a time of deep political divisions and are likely to reinforce, rather than reshape, duelling perspectives. Some view accountability as long overdue, while others, like Mr. Trump, feel the Republican is being targeted for political purposes by a Democratic prosecutor.
Mr. 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, defence lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Mr. Trump “did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court”.
A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed the indictment and said prosecutors had reached out to Mr. Trump’s defence team to arrange a surrender.
A person familiar with the matter, who was not authorised to discuss sealed proceedings, said the surrender was expected to happen next week. District Attorney Alvin Bragg left his office on Thursday evening without commenting.
The Hush Money Case
The case centres on well-chronicled allegations from a period in 2016 when Mr. Trump’s celebrity past collided with his political ambitions. Prosecutors scrutinised 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.
The timing of the indictment appeared to come as a surprise to Mr. Trump campaign officials following news reports that criminal charges was likely weeks away. The former President was at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, on Thursday and had filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the day.