Donald Trump became the first former president to face criminal charges Thursday when a Manhattan grand jury issued a reported 30-count indictment stemming from a $130,000 payment his former attorney, Michael Cohen, made to porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged 2006 affair.
Trump defense attorney Joe Tacopina told Newsmax on Thursday night the former president likely will be arraigned Tuesday, but that all the details haven't been worked out. He said Trump will plead not guilty and won't be put in handcuffs, as per his Secret Service detail. He will be fingerprinted and his mug shot will be taken. The indictment will be unsealed at the time of Trump's arraignment.
The grand jury was empaneled in January by Democrat District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who promised during his election campaign in 2021 to bring charges against Trump.
The former president has been a constant target by his political opponents since he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. There are two other investigations targeting the Republican by the Biden administration's Justice Department over Trump's role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and his handling of classified documents and one by Democrat Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over Trump's role in trying to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.
In a statement, Trump portrayed the case as the continuation of a politically motivated witch hunt against him.
"This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history," Trump said, calling Bragg "a disgrace" and casting himself as "a completely innocent person."
Trump has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing, saying he never had an affair with Daniels.
"I feel so angry today because I know what the law is," Tacopina said. "And I know all the facts of this case, and they don't equal a crime — not a misdemeanor or a felony. This is a case that was dead. Everyone said that. No one took this case up. [Federal Election Commission] commissioners have said there's no crime here. But yet, they're trying to fit this square peg into a round hole to achieve some political agenda by some people who should not be involved in the justice system."
The indictment came as a surprise because the grand jury was said to be on a planned break until after Easter.
The first sign that an indictment was imminent Thursday came just before 2 p.m., when the three lead prosecutors on the investigation walked into the Lower Manhattan building where the grand jury was sitting, The New York Times reported. One carried a copy of the penal law, which was most likely used to read the criminal statutes to the grand jurors before they voted.
Nearly three hours later, the prosecutors walked into the court clerk's office through a back door to begin the official process of filing the indictment, arriving about two minutes before the office closed for the day.
Under normal circumstances, an indictment would deal a fatal blow to a presidential candidacy. But Trump is not your typical candidate. He has said he would not abandon the race if he were charged, and the rumors of an indictment actually saw his poll numbers rise. There is no rule against someone being charged with or convicted of a crime running for president or holding the office.
Bragg's case might apply a legal theory that has yet to be evaluated by judges. A New York Times review of relevant cases and interviews with election law experts strongly suggests that New York State prosecutors have never before filed an election law case involving a federal campaign.
An untested case against any defendant, let alone a former president of the United States, carries the risk that a court could throw out or limit the charges.
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