New York grand jury votes to indict Trump
Twice impeached but not convicted, Donald Trump has become the first former US president to face criminal charges.
In a move unprecedented in US history, a grand jury in New York voted on Thursday to indict Trump for paying off a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The much-anticipated charges come as Trump seeks to return to the White House after losing a 2020 re-election bid, making him both the only current or former president and the only presidential candidate to be charged. .
The indictment remains sealed and it is unclear what crimes and how many criminal counts Trump has been charged with. CNN reported that the former president has been charged with more than 30 counts. VOA could not confirm the report.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said it contacted Trump’s attorney “to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment. “.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said the former president will likely be arraigned early next week.
The indictment could come as early as Tuesday, several news outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.
To surrender, Trump, who lives in Florida, would have to travel to New York, with his Secret Service detail.
Once in police custody, he would be fingerprinted and photographed before being brought before a judge and released on a personal recognizance.
In a statement, Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing in the case, issued the indictment as part of a long-running witch hunt led by Democrats to destroy his “Make America Great Again” movement.
“This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,” the former president wrote. “Democrats lied, cheated and stole in their obsession with trying to ‘get Trump’, but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a totally innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.”
Rather than hurt his candidacy, Trump said the indictment “will massively backfire. [President] Joe Biden.”
Last week, writing on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump warned of “potential death and destruction” if indicted, a statement some critics see as incitement to violence.
The indictment, while widely expected, has sparked a firestorm around Washington.
“Outrageous,” tweeted Jim Jordan, Republican Congressman and Trump loyalist.
Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, accusing Bragg of weaponizing the justice system against Trump, vowed the House would hold the prosecutor and “his unprecedented abuse of power accountable.”
Other Republicans who aren’t particularly close to Trump also viewed the accusation as politically motivated.
The reaction from Democrats, on the other hand, was predictably supportive.
In a statement, former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote that the grand jury “acted according to the facts and the law.”
“No one is above the law and everyone is entitled to a trial to prove their innocence,” she wrote. “Let’s hope that the former president will peacefully respect the system, which grants him this right.”
The indictment arose out of a federal investigation into silent payments Michael Cohen, then Trump’s attorney, made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The secret payment came to light in early 2018. Flipping his former boss, Cohen testified in August 2018 that, at Trump’s direction, he paid Daniels $130,000 to silence her about an alleged sexual encounter. with the real estate magnate turned Republican candidate. The Trump Organization later reimbursed Cohen for “legal” services.
Although paying silent money is not illegal, federal prosecutors have charged classifying the payment as a “legal” fee violates federal campaign finance laws.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple federal criminal charges, including campaign finance violations, and later served more than a year in prison.
Although federal prosecutors did not indict Trump at the time, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office later took over the case and began taking grand jury testimony in January.
Cohen, the prosecutors’ star witness, testified before the panel on several occasions.
In a statement released Thursday, Cohen said he stood by his testimony and the evidence he provided to prosecutors.
Although the indictment remains sealed, legal experts say the charges against Trump likely center on New York’s false business records law.
Under the law, falsification of business documents is normally a crime. When done with the intent to commit or conceal a second crime, it rises to the level of a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
What additional offences, if any, Trump has been charged with are unclear.
Although prosecutors typically only press charges against a defendant when they think they can secure a conviction, Trump’s conviction is far from certain, legal experts say.
While Trump admitted to reimbursing Cohen for the silent payment, he said it “had nothing to do with the campaign.”
His lawyers blamed Cohen.
“The payments were made to an attorney, not Stormy Daniels,” Tacopina recently told MSNBC. “The payments were made to Donald Trump’s lawyer, which would be considered legal costs,” he said.
Cohen was “his lawyer at the time and told him it was the right way to do it, to protect himself and his family from embarrassment. It’s as simple as that,” Tacopina said.
But other legal experts argue that prosecutors should be guided by a long-standing principle: to treat similar cases alike.
In a recent article on the site just securityNew York University co-editor and law professor Ryan Goodman pointed to cases he says show how New York prosecutors “threw the book at individuals for falsifying business records — some cases involving actions far less egregious than Trump’s alleged conduct.”
In 2021, a mental health therapy assistant was charged under the law for defrauding over $35,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
Last year, an insurance broker was indicted for allegedly creating and filing fraudulent liability insurance certificates in an attempt to further defraud.
The silent money charge is not the only criminal case the former president is facing.
In Georgia, prosecutors are considering bringing criminal charges as part of Trump’s effort to overturn the result of the state’s 2020 presidential election. Trump narrowly lost Georgia to Democrat Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, special counsel appointed by the US Department of Justice, Jack Smith, has been investigating Trump’s role in trying to overturn Biden’s victory as well as his handling of classified documents after leaving office. .