Former US president Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.
The specific charges are not yet known, as the indictment remains under seal. CNN on Thursday reported Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
Trump said he was “completely innocent” and indicated he would not drop out of the 2024 presidential race. He accused Bragg, a Democrat, of trying to hurt his chances of winning re-election against Democratic President Joe Biden.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” he said in a statement.
Shortly after, Trump appealed to supporters to provide money for a legal defense. He has raised over $2 million, according to his campaign, since he incorrectly predicted on March 18 that he would be arrested four days later.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination according to polling, received support from a number of his potential challengers on Thursday including Florida Governor Ron Desantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Given the extreme national political estrangement exacerbated by Trump, this case is likely to leave the country changed however it turns out. There will be fears, for instance, that it will crush one of the last remaining precedents for political restraint and leave future presidents vulnerable to prosecution in a manner more akin to fragile failing states than the world’s most vital democracy. Yet at the same time, if Trump has indeed committed crimes, a failure to pursue him would send a message that the powerful can get away with behavior that ordinary Americans cannot.
The move was especially stunning given Trump’s long record of impunity, which has seen him constantly stretch the limits of the law and the conventions of accepted behavior with his uproarious personal, business, and political careers. Suddenly, Trump’s decades of evading accountability will end. The former president will have to start answering for his conduct, likely beginning in court on Tuesday after he travels to New York to be arraigned in what will be a high-security spectacle given his past incitement of violence.