A grand jury in Manhattan voted to indict former president Donald Trump on charges related to his 2016 payoff of adult film star Stormy Daniels, as part of an effort to keep an alleged affair between the two of them quiet in the run-up to the presidential election, according to multiple media reports.
The state criminal charges are not yet clear. Nor is the maximum sentence if Trump is convicted. The indictment could pose a major challenge to Trump in his bid to return to the White House in 2024 and represents the first time a former US president has been criminally charged.
Shortly after news of the indictment broke Trump released a rambling statement of largely recycled complaints about various investigations. He did not address the specific accusations against him.
“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,” Trump said.
Notably, Trump did deny that he paid Daniels. He also acknowledged making payments to a second woman, Karen McDougal, who has also threatened to go public with a story of having had an affair with Trump. (There is reportedly an investigation into that case as well.)
Trump has operated on the edge of the law for decades, all but daring prosecutors to take him to court—even before he ran for president. Since leaving office, he has remained under investigation and is facing a massive $250 million civil fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Prosecutors in New York City state have been examining the Daniels case for more than five years, starting under former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. But the case appeared all but dead by the time Vance’s successor, current DA Alvin Bragg, took office in 2021. Bragg also shut down an investigation into Trump’s personal finances—apparently uninterested in pursuing such a high-profile case that might not pan out.
Bragg’s interest in the case appears to have been reignited following the swift conviction of two of Trump’s companies on tax and fraud charges in December. Though Trump was not personally on trial in that case, prosecutors in Bragg’s office appeared to have little trouble convincing the jury that the Trump Organization had a “culture of fraud” that came from the very top. Following the conviction, Bragg told reporters that he was moving on to the “next chapter” of the investigation into Trump, and he quickly began pulling in potential witnesses in the Stormy Daniels payoff case to reinterview them and put them in front of a grand jury.
In his statement, Trump attacked Bragg personally, accusing the district attorney of ignoring crime in New York City and said the indictment would backfire on Joe Biden.
This is a developing story.