A New York grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump on unspecified criminal charges in a case that marks the first time a former president has been charged criminally, his lawyers confirmed.
The grand jury had been investigating hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with him. The outline of those payments became public only after he was elected in 2016 and more details were revealed in sworn testimony as Trump served in the White House.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office acknowledged late Thursday that Trump’s lawyers had been notified. Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said Trump was expected in New York by Tuesday for arraignment.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender… for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,” a spokesperson for District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. “Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”
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“We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” Tacopina said.
The former president has called the charges “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.” Trump has threatened that there would be “potential death & destruction” if charges were filed against him in the case. He has said also that he wouldn’t quit the 2024 presidential race if indicted.
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Trump lawyers confirm indictment; say they will fight it
Trump attorneys Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina confirmed that “President Trump has been indicted” and added that “he did not commit any crime.”
“We will vigorously fight this this political prosecution in Court,” the attorneys said in a brief written statement.
Another lawyer for Trump, Alina Habba, issued a statement saying: “A former president, a current candidate and my friend President Donald J. Trump is a victim of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated.”
– David Jackson and Erin Mansfield
Like other defendants, Trump will likely be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken
No one knows how former President Donald Trump will react to the indictment, and whether he will turn himself in willingly or not. But once he is arrested and taken into custody, the former president will be read his rights, known as a Miranda warning, about how he has the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and that what he says can be used against him in a court of law.
Trump will then be processed just like any other defendant and given a booking number, former prosecutors and law enforcement officials told USA TODAY. “There will still be a mug shot, fingerprints and lots of paperwork filled out as part of the booking process,” said former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner. “We will see a mug shot, but I do not think we’re going to see a perp walk.”
A “perp walk” is when authorities parade a suspect before the media. In some cases, some defendants have chosen to be taken into custody that way in an effort to make a statement about their arrest and the charges against them. But one of Trump’s lawyers, Joseph Tacopina, appeared to rule that out, saying Trump would turn himself in and voluntarily self-surrender.
Underscoring the unprecedented nature of the case, Trump is expected to be accompanied to his arraignment by his Secret Service detail, as former presidents are afforded such protection for life.
– Josh Meyer and Kevin Johnson
Trump’s statement attacks the indictment
Trump put out a lengthy statement attacking what he called “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.”
In a post filled with invective, Trump also claimed that Democrats and others have been out to get him since he announced his first president run in June of 2015. He cited a litany of past investigations, including Russia election interference in 2016 and two impeachments during his presidency.
“Now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” Trump claimed. “Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done.”
Trump also condemned Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, claiming without evidence he is doing the “dirty work” of President Joe Biden.
Trump also said the indictment will “backfire massively” on Biden and the Democrats, and that he will win the presidency anyway in 2024.
– David Jackson
Biden White House won’t comment on Trump indictment
The White House has no comment on Trump’s indictment, spokesman Andrew Bates told USA TODAY.
The decision not to weigh in comes as President Joe Biden has said nothing publicly about Trump’s legal troubles since the former president announced that he expected to face criminal charges.
The White House last week condemned violent protests that Trump warned could result from an indictment and said the federal government has not tracked any specific security threats tied to an indictment.
– Joey Garrison
Photos:Trump presidency in photos
Senate Majority Leader Schumer: Let legal system determine Trump’s fate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Thursday that there should be no political influence of interference in Trump’s indictment. He encouraged supporters and critics of the former president to let the process proceed peacefully and according to law.
“Mr. Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law,” the New York senator tweeted.
– Rachel Looker
Law enforcement has met on security for Trump indictment
Law enforcement officials have been meeting to assess the need for additional security in preparation for the former president’s indictment.
Last week, Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle told USA TODAY that the agency had participated in meetings with Manhattan court authorities, the New York Police Department and other officials to discuss planning for Trump’s appearance in New York to answer the charges.
At that time, Cheatle said the agency has been provided no information related to the timing of a possible decision, and that “no extraordinary measures” have been required in the security effort.
“The Secret Service has a long-standing relationship with a lot of our law enforcement partners, both here in the National Capital Region and in the New York area,” Cheatle said. She said the Secret Service coordinates daily with its law enforcement partners for any contingency, “wherever we have protectees or our investigative missions.”
– Kevin Johnson
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer: ‘No one is above the law’
The attorney representing adult film star Stormy Daniels, a central figure in the hush money inquiry, said Thursday the indictment indicated that “no one is above the law.”
“The indictment of Donald Trump is no cause for joy,” attorney Clark Brewster said. “The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail.”
– Kevin Johnson
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy: House will hold DA Bragg ‘to account’
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted Thursday that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “irreparably damaged our country” and interfered in a presidential election.
“As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump,” McCarthy tweeted. “The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
– Rachel Looker
Former House Speaker Pelosi: ‘No one is above the law’
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted Thursday that the Grand Jury “acted upon the facts and the law” in Trump’s indictment.
“No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence,” she tweeted. “Hopefully, the former president will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right.”
The former speaker clashed with Trump during his time as president and initiated two impeachment inquiries into the former president.
– Rachel Looker
What is a grand jury?
In the state of New York, a grand jury “decides whether or not a person should be formally charged with a crime or other offense,” according to a handbook that the state’s court system hands out to grand jurors.
Grand juries work in secret and only hear evidence from prosecution. There is no judge present in the proceeding. The grand jury’s vote to formally accuse someone of a crime is called an “indictment.” A grand jury also can vote to dismiss charges or accuse the person of a lesser offense.
– Erin Mansfield
Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise on indictment: ‘Outrageous’
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted one word Thursday evening in response to the news of Trump’s indictment: “Outrageous.”
Jordan is one of three Republican House committee chairs who called for testimony from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The GOP chairs said they have concerns Bragg’s investigation of Trump would become “a politically motivated prosecutorial decision.”
House Republican Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana also called the indictment “outrageous.”
“The sham New York indictment of President Donald Trump is one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents,” the House’s second-ranking Republican tweeted Thursday.
– Rachel Looker
Rep. Adam Schiff: Trump indictment ‘sobering and unprecedented’
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, who led the first impeachment against Trump over his dealings with Ukraine, called the indictment a “sobering and unprecedented development.” He said since Cohen went to prison for the hush money payment, it was just that Trump be charged for directing the payment. Schiff said “more grievous” charges are possible from Justice Department special counsel’s investigation and a Georgia district attorney’s inquiry.
“If we are to be a nation of laws, then we must apply the law equally and to everyone, regardless of their station,” Schiff said. “To do otherwise, because holding a president accountable is controversial or provocative, will not bring order, but breed disorder, and disrespect of the law.”
– Bart Jansen
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says indictment is ‘un-American’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s best-polling Republican opening, is backing him on the New York indictment.
“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,” DeSantis said in a statement. “It is un-American.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct,” DeSantis said. “Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”
DeSantis also repeated that he would not help New York with any extradition request.
“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances,” DeSantis said.
– David Jackson
Pro-Trump organization head denounces indictment
Allies of Trump are denouncing the indictment, saying that it’s an effort to stop the former president from being reelected.
Taylor Budowich, head of a pro-Trump organization called Make America Great Again Inc., said in a statement Thursday said there “was no crime” and instead is “the indictment of a failed nation.” Budowich added that he believes the indictment will fail and Trump will be reelected.
“President Trump is promising to peacefully end the war in Ukraine, dismantle the deep state, and save our country by putting America first,” Budowich said in a statement. “For that, the political elites and powerbrokers have weaponized government to try and stop him.”
– Rebecca Morin
Michael Cohen: ‘No one is above the law’ – including a former president
Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and a key witness in the grand jury investigation, says Trump’s indictment is only the beginning of a new chapter in the former president’s legal saga.
“Now that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself,” Cohen said in a written statement. “The two things I wish to say at this time is that accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided.”
Cohen began by noting that Trump is the first president in history to be indicted. “I take no pride in issuing this statement,” he said, “and wish to also remind everyone of the presumption of innocence; as provided by the due process clause.”
Cohen added that “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.”
– David Jackson
Other legal jeopardy for Trump
The New York criminal case is the first to charge him criminally, but he faces legal jeopardy in several jurisdictions.
Two of his companies, Trump Corp. and the Trump Payroll Corp., were convicted in December of criminal tax fraud. The companies were fined a combined $1.6 million.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is considering a range of potential charges, including election fraud, false statements and racketeering.
A federal special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating Trump’s role in interfering with the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden and the unauthorized retention of classified documents at his Florida estate.
Presidential historian on the significance of Trump indictment
Matt Dallek, a presidential historian, said the indictment marks an inflection point in American democracy, and will test the system of equal justice under the law as perhaps no other case in recent history.
“The indictment is good news for democracy, but it also reflects the turmoil and the challenges that Trump has posed to our system of governance, so it cuts both ways,” Dallek said. “It’s significant because he is the first president or former President to be indicted. But it also raises the fundamental question of can he get a fair trial? And can the trial proceed without significant outbreaks of violence? And that’s going to be a test for the rule of law in America and the stability of the two-party political system.”
– Josh Meyer
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