A New York grand jury voted Thursday to indict former President Donald Trump in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, his attorney told CNBC.
Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, told NBC News that Trump is expected to surrender to the Manhattan Attorney’s Office early next week. Trump is expected to be indicted Tuesday, according to Susan Necheles, another of Trump’s attorneys. The former president is expected to appear before Judge Juan Merchan in Manhattan after 2:15 p.m. that day, two officials told NBC News. That can change.
Trump is the first former president to be charged with a crime, a development that will resonate across the country. The impeachment comes as he is the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office confirmed the charges Thursday night.
“Tonight we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his transfer to the Manhattan Attorney’s Office for indictment on a Supreme Court indictment that remains classified. Guidance will be provided when selecting the date of indictment,” a spokesman for Bragg’s office said.
The number of charges against Trump in the indictment was not disclosed Thursday. And it was not known if the charges were limited to conduct related to the payment to Daniels or if they also included conduct related to a separate hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal by the editor of The National Enquirer. Trump’s attorneys told CNBC Thursday night they were unaware of the charges.
According to various media reports, Trump was surprised by the news of the indictment. He criticized the decision, calling it “the highest level of political persecution and electoral interference in history”. As recently as Wednesday, he said in a social media post that he had “gained such respect from this grand jury.”
The charges stem from the district attorney’s investigation into how the Trump Organization recorded a reimbursement to Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, after Cohen paid Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, to keep her silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
Follow our live coverage of the grand jury vote in New York Charges against ex-President Donald Trump.
Trump was filming his TV show Celebrity Apprentice at the time of this alleged rendezvous and was married to his current wife, Melania Trump, who had given birth to their son, Barron, a few months earlier.
The Trump Organization described the reimbursement to Cohen as legal costs in business documents.
Falsifying business records is usually a misdemeanor under New York law, but can be made a felony if the false information was provided to cover up another crime.
Trump denies having sex with Daniels or committing any wrongdoing.
“This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a statement. “The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession to ‘get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable — they’ve charged a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.”
Tacopina and Necheles said, “President Trump has been impeached. He has committed no crime.”
“We will vigorously fight this political persecution in court,” the defense attorneys said.
The charges being pursued by Bragg’s office are the first in multiple criminal cases against Trump, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump is also being investigated by the US Department of Justice in two separate criminal cases. One has to do with his efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election, as he made false claims of widespread voter fraud in that year’s popular vote. The other investigation focuses on Trump’s removal of government files from the White House and whether he obstructed justice by storing them at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than a year as government officials sought her return.
A prosecutor in Atlanta is also separately investigating Trump and a number of his allies for their attempt to get Georgia officials to reverse his 2020 loss to Biden in the state.
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Waco, Texas on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images
Cohen said in a statement to NBC News, “For the first time in our country’s history, a President (current or former) of the United States has been indicted. I am not proud to make this statement and would also like to remind everyone of the presumption of innocence; as provided in the due process clause.”
“However, I take comfort in confirming the adage that no one is above the law, not even a past president,” Cohen said. “Today’s indictment is not the end of this chapter, it’s just the beginning. Now that the charges have been brought, the case is better off let the charges speak for themselves. “The two things I want to say at this point are that accountability is important, and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have presented to the Manhattan District Attorney,” he said.
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The indictment of Trump in Manhattan comes more than four years after Cohen, who had previously served him faithfully for years, turned against Trump and began working with federal, state and local law enforcement officials in New York.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal criminal charges involving campaign finance violations for both the Daniels payment and a separate payment he facilitated for McDougal, the former Playboy model, to buy her silence about an affair who she said she started with Trump in 2006.
The Federal Election Commission fined the editor of The National Enquirer $187,500 in 2021 for “knowingly and intentionally” violating campaign law by paying McDougal a $150,000 “catch and kill” fee to buy her story and bury her before the 2016 election.
Michael Cohen, former attorney for former US President Donald Trump arrives at the New York Courthouse on March 13, 2023 in New York City, USA.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
Cohen said the payments were intended to protect Trump’s chances in this election when he faced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump escaped punishment from the FEC.
Cohen met with prosecutors 20 times before testifying for two days before the Manhattan Criminal Court grand jury last week. This panel began meeting in late January and heard testimonies from several witnesses before Cohen.
Trump and a number of elected Republican officials have accused Bragg, who is a Democrat, of continuing the investigation to harm him politically.
Bragg’s focus on paying Daniels in recent months has come as a surprise as it was seen by many as the weakest possible criminal case against Trump in an investigation that began four years ago under Bragg’s predecessor as DA, Cyrus Vance Jr.
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks with her attorney Michael Avenatti (R) in U.S. Federal Court in Lower Manhattan, New York April 16, 2018.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez | AFP | Getty Images
In February 2022, two senior prosecutors working on the investigation resigned after Bragg indicated he would stay the investigation.
At the time, that investigation focused on Cohen’s claims that Trump and the Trump Organization reported different values for the same properties to, among other things, reduce their tax burden and insurance costs and maximize the value of the loans against them.
One of the prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz, said in his resignation letter that Trump was “guilty of numerous felonies” relating to the “preparation and use of his annual financial statements” that were “incorrect.”
Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit in September seeking penalties of at least $250 million from Trump, his company and three of his adult children over alleged widespread fraud in financial statements.
James’ lawsuit, which will go to trial later this year, seeks to permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump from serving as executive officers at a company in New York and the Lawsuit to permanently ban named Trump companies from doing business in New York State.
In December, a Manhattan jury convicted two affiliates of the Trump Organization of multiple crimes related to a plan that since 2005 had attempted to make tax payments to then-CFO Allen on executive compensation in the form of perks like free apartments and luxury cars to avoid Weisselberg.
Trump was not personally charged in this case, but he “knew exactly what was going on,” said a prosecutor in his closing argument to the Manhattan Supreme Court.
Trump affiliates convicted in the case were fined $1.6 million at sentencing in January.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to the count in August, was sentenced to five months in prison in January. He is set to be released from the notorious Rikers Island jail on April 19, taking into account his good behavior sentence.