Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, two sources said on Thursday, becoming the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.
The charges, arising from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, could reshape the 2024 presidential race. Trump previously said he would continue campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination if charged with a crime. The specific charges are not yet known and the indictment will likely be announced in the coming days, the New York Times reported. Trump will have to travel to Manhattan for fingerprinting and other processing at that point. Susan Necheles, a lawyer representing Trump, said she was informed of the indictment but did not know when he would surrender.
Trump sought re-election in 2020 but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has falsely claimed he lost to Biden due to widespread voting fraud and has called the investigation that led to his indictment a “political witch hunt.” The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges facing Trump, and the charges could hurt his presidential comeback attempt. Some 44% of Republicans said he should drop out of the race if he is indicted, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week.
The grand jury convened by Bragg in January began hearing evidence about Trump’s role in the payment to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election that he ended up winning. Daniels, a well-known adult film actress and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received the money in exchange for keeping silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.
The former president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has said Trump directed hush payments to Daniels and to a second woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also said she had a sexual relationship with him. Trump has denied having affairs with either woman. Federal prosecutors examined the Daniels payoff in 2018, leading to a prison sentence for Cohen but no charges against Trump.
No former or sitting U.S. president has ever faced criminal charges. Trump also faces two criminal investigations by a special counsel appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and one by a local prosecutor in Georgia. – Steve Sijenyi