Former U.S. president Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury Thursday on charges related to hush money paid on his behalf to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels on the eve of his election in 2016. With the formal filing of the charges by New York district attorney Alvin Bragg, Trump became the first president – sitting or former – to be criminally indicted.
Copies of the indictments were not immediately available on Thursday afternoon, but Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina has previously said the former president would surrender to authorities at the Manhattan criminal courts building in accordance with the law.
In a statement posted to his Truth Social platform, Trump called the charge “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”
“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 wrote. “Never before in our nation’s history has this been done. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.”
On the day of the indictment, Trump was drawing the support of approximately 45.7 percent of GOP primary voters nationwide, according to the latest aggregate polling data from RealClearPolitics. That puts him roughly seventeen percentage points ahead of his top rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis (28.9 percent).
The charges come more than six years after disbarred lawyer Michael D. Cohen – Trump’s longtime personal attorney – paid Daniels $130,000 as part of a private settlement prohibiting her from discussing her “intimate relationship” with the former president. Cohen acknowledged paying Daniels the money in 2018, claiming he neither sought nor received reimbursement from Trump, any of his businesses or his political campaign.
“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with (Daniels) and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen told The New York Times in early 2018. “The payment to (Daniels) was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
That wasn’t true, though – which Cohen admitted in December 2018 when he was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to eight criminal charges (five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate intending to influence an election).
The charges against Cohen were related to payouts to two of Trump’s alleged ex-lovers – Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. As part of his plea agreement, Cohen admitted paying Daniels “in coordination with and at the direction of (Trump)” – and doing so for the “principal purpose” of impacting the 2016 election.
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Daniels repeatedly denied having sexual relations with Trump – however prior to the settlement she gave an interview to InTouch magazine in 2011 which detailed the alleged affair.
According to the interview, Daniels claimed she first had sex with Trump at a Lake Tahoe, Nevada hotel suite in 2006 – four months after Trump’s wife, former first lady Melania Trump, gave birth to their son, Barron Trump. Subsequent encounters were alleged to have taken place at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
The affair continued “well into the year 2007,” according to Daniels, who sued Trump in 2018 seeking to invalidate the hush money deal.
Daniels did not testify before the grand jury, but her attorney – Clark Brewster – said she would if necessary.
“The indictment of Donald Trump is no cause for joy,” Brewster tweeted. “The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail. No one is above the law.”
In addition to the Manhattan probe over the payout to Daniels, Trump is facing an investigation in Georgia over allegations related to the 2020 election as well as an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into the January 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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