What to Know
- The Manhattan grand jury had been hearing from witnesses, including former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier
- Trump denies the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong and has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 campaign
- Besides the hush money inquiry in New York, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election
Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on criminal charges following an investigation into hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
For weeks, the grand jury had been hearing testimony in the case of the payments Trump allegedly authorized during his 2016 presidential campaign to keep claims of an extramarital affair quiet. It was not clear what charge or charges Trump faces in the indictment, as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not shared any details on the matter.
The twice-impeached Trump is the first commander-in-chief in American history to be criminally indicted.
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After the grand jury returned the indictment — which remained sealed as of late Thursday night — a spokesperson for the DA's office said that they had contacted Trump's legal team to coordinate his surrender before the arraignment. Trump attorneys told NBC News that the former president is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday, while two sources familiar with the matter said that the tentative plan is for Trump to appear before Judge Juan Merchan after 2:15 p.m. that day.
DA Bragg left his office Thursday evening without commenting. Trump's defense attorneys said in a statement that "He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in Court."
In a lengthy statement of his own in which he again denied the allegations, Trump echoed the claims his attorneys made, calling the case "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's statement reads. "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."
As he has continuously done in the past, Trump once again called the investigation a "Witch-hunt." He went on to go after Bragg, who he called "a disgrace...doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on."
Prosecutors have been investigating since Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen admitted in 2018 that he paid Daniels $130,000 before the presidential election to silence her claims about an alleged sexual encounter the two had years earlier.
The developments may have significant implications for the 2024 presidential election. The 76-year-old Trump has insisted he would continue to seek the Republican nomination even if the grand jury voted to indict.
The timing of the indictment appeared to come as a surprise to Trump campaign officials following news reports that criminal charges were likely weeks away. The former president was at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, on Thursday and filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the day.
Legally, an indictment does not block him from running. Prosecutors have note said whether they intended to seek prison time in the event of a conviction, a development that also wouldn’t prevent Trump from seeking or winning the presidency.
For a man whose presidency was defined by one obliterated norm after another, the indictment sets up yet another never-before-seen spectacle — a former president having his fingerprints and mug shot taken, and then facing arraignment. For security reasons, his booking is expected to be carefully choreographed to avoid crowds inside or outside the courthouse.
Trump has previously told supporters he anticipated his own arrest, and urged loyalists to "protest, protest, protest!" New York City security plans have been underway accordingly. But that arrest has not yet happened.
His message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. A later post used stronger phrasing.
“IT’S TIME!!!” Trump wrote. “WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”
It all evoked, in foreboding ways, the rhetoric he used shortly before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
DA Bragg, whose office had been investigating whether Trump may have broken any state laws in connection with the alleged payments, sent an internal memo ahead of the indictment seeking to assure his staff of their safety. Bragg said his office would not be intimidated, nor would it tolerate threats to the "rule of law."
Still, local law enforcement officials are aware of potential public safety ramifications and have been preparing accordingly, out of an abundance of caution. The city once again ramped up security measures on Thursday ahead of the vote from the grand jury, and the NYPD told its 36,000 officers to be fully mobilized and ready to respond to any potential protests or unrest.
Trump himself did not testify before the grand jury, though Bragg did give him the opportunity to do so. However, a lawyer closely allied with the former president briefly testified in an effort to undercut Cohen’s credibility.
His defense team has previously said Trump would surrender, either to the NYPD or at Bragg's office, which avoids an arrest.
The attorney for Daniels said that the indictment "is no cause for joy. The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail. No one is above the law."
Cohen also issued a comment after news of the indictment came down, saying that he "took no pride" in what had happened.
"However, I do take solace in validating the adage that no one is above the law; not even a former President. Today’s indictment is not the end of this chapter; but rather, just the beginning," the statement for Cohen read. "Now that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself."
President Joe Biden had not yet commented on the indictment, and it was not believed that the White House would issue any sort of comment.
Trump's Legal Woes: Beyond the Indictment
The indictment of Trump marks an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Even as Trump pursues his latest White House campaign, there is no question an indictment gives fodder to his longstanding critics.
Besides the hush money inquiry in New York, Trump faces criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.
A Justice Department special counsel has also been presenting evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate. It is not clear when those investigations will end or whether they might result in criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the ongoing gravity – and broad geographic scope – of the legal challenges facing the former president.
Trump’s post on Saturday echoes one made last summer when he broke the news on Truth Social that the FBI was searching his Florida home as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents.
News of that search sparked a flood of contributions to Trump’s political operation, and on Saturday, Trump sent out a series of fundraising emails to his supporters, including one that claimed, “I’m not worried in the slightest.”
After his post, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decried any plans to prosecute Trump as an “outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” whom he claimed was pursuing “political vengeance.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, issued a statement with a similar sentiment.
The grand jury had heard from witnesses, including former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump has repeatedly denied the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong, and has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican’s 2024 campaign.
Trump also has labeled Bragg, who is Black, a “racist,” and has accused the prosecutor of letting crime in the city run amok while he has focused on Trump. New York remains one of the safest cities in the country.
Eric Tucker, Michael R. Sisak, Jill Colvin and Michelle L. Price of the Associate Press contributed to this report