Sensation as Manhattan grand jury votes to INDICT Trump over $130,000 hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels: Becomes FIRST EVER former president to be criminally indicted
- Donald Trump has become the first former president to face criminal charges
- It marks the end of a years-long investigation into hush money paid to Daniels
- It means Trump faces arrest and the prospect of humiliating court appearances
- Trump indictment LIVE: New York jury brings criminal charges
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump over $130,000 in hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Trump becomes the first ever former president to face criminal charges, which are expected in the coming days.
It marks the end of a years-long investigation into hush money paid to the adult movie star in 2016, allegedly to buy her silence about their affair.
Trump and his aides were taken by surprise, The New York Times reported, and the 76-year-old is currently ‘absorbing’ the news at his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.
His lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, said: ‘President Trump has been indicted. He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.’
The indictment takes the country into complex legal and political territory, with a candidate for president now facing arrest and the prospect of humiliating court appearances.
Although he is the first former president to be criminally charged, he is not the first presidential candidate to be criminally charged. Eugene Debs, convicted of sedition and jailed for his opposition to World War One, ran for president five times.
It marks a victory for the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
Bragg’s office has been probing a $130,000 hush money payment made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, to Daniels, 44, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Trump camp was quick to blast the indictment on Thursday night, with Eric Trump telling DailyMail.com it is ‘the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent’.
The White House declined to comment on the Trump indictment when asked by DailyMail.com.
Meanwhile it also emerged on Thursday New York prosecutors were looking to charge Trump over a $150,000 payment made to another former Playboy model.
Bragg’s team has questioned grand jury witnesses about cash given to Karen McDougal, who was Playboy magazine ‘Playmate of the Year’ in 1998.
Eric Trump told DailyMail.com: ‘This is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.
‘They are ruthlessly attacking my father because he dared challenge the political elite. This is Exhibit A to the decline of American Law.’
A source told DailyMail.com that Trump played nine holes of golf at his West Palm Beach club on Thursday morning. His regular table in the grill room was reserved but he did not stay for lunch.
The former president has always denied having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
The allegations came to light when Trump was in office, triggering a federal investigation.
In 2017 Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations, and he told a court in Manhattan that Trump had directed him to make the payments.
But the investigation disappeared from the headlines as other legal cases focused on Trump’s family business and his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, riot hog the spotlight. But it never went away.
Although the Justice Department decided not to charge Trump and the Federal Election Commission was deadlocked over taking action over claims that the payment amounted to an undeclared campaign contribution, the Manhattan DA was still looking at the case.
And it took on fresh momentum early in 2023 when Cohen met with investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and it emerged that a grand jury was hearing evidence.
Such hearings are conducted in secret. But one theory was that it was probing Trump for falsifying business records in connection with the payment, by allegedly misreporting a campaign donation as a legal fees.
That amounts to a misdemeanor. But that rises to a felony if it is done in conjunction with a second crime, such as a campaign finance violation.
Then in March Bragg’s office asked Trump to testify, in the clearest sign yet that he could be indicted.
The former president confirmed as much in a social media post at the weekend, calling on supporters to rise up in protest.
‘The far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,’ he posted on his Truth Social platform. ‘Protest, take our nation back!’
The final act was reportedly the repeat testimony of Trump lawyer Robert Costello on Monday.
He was asked to appear by the former president’s legal team because he may have evidence that contradicted Cohen’s account. Privately Trump’s allies are confident that the case has little substance.
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An insider told DailyMail.com that it strengthens him politically, rallying the base in his support. ‘It is very obvious that this is helpful,’ he said.
He added that to get the second charge, elevating the case to a felony, prosecutors would have to show that Trump wanted to cover up an affair to help his campaign, even though the business mogul’s love life had been frontpage news in New York for decades.
‘Of course no one wants to be indicted, but it is helpful politically and legally it’s not even that much of a threat because the case is so weak and looks nakedly political,’ added the source.
Legal experts have also weighed in on the case’s failings.
‘Although it may be politically popular, the case is legally pathetic,’ said Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professof of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University in a column for The Hill.
‘Bragg is struggling to twist state laws to effectively prosecute a federal case long ago rejected by the Justice Department against Trump over his payment of @hush money@ to former stripper Stormy Daniels.
‘In 2018 (yes, that is how long this theory has been around), I wrote how difficult such a federal case would be under existing election laws. Now, six years later, the same theory may be shoehorned into a state claim.’
Meanwhile on Thursday it emerged Manhattan DA Bragg’s team has questioned grand jury witnesses about cash given to Karen McDougal, who was Playboy magazine ‘Playmate of the Year’ in 1998.
McDougal claims she had a ten-month affair with Trump which began in 2006. Trump’s office released a statement on Thursday branding the development a ‘hoax’.
Evidence about payments to McDougal could either be used to bring new charges or establish a ‘pattern of behavior’ for the Daniels case, sources told the Wall Street Journal which revealed the development.
A spokesman for Trump said: ‘It is sad to see radical Democrats and their partners in the media try to resurrect a dead witch hunt.
‘Just like with every other hoax that President Trump has been targeted with, there is no crime, except for election interference through weaponization of our justice system against President Trump and his supporters.’
Bragg’s office and McDougal’s lawyer hadn’t commented on the latest development on Thursday afternoon.
American Media Inc, the owner of the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal in 2016 for exclusive rights to the story about her alleged affair with Trump, which he denies. But the purchase was a ‘catch and kill’ tactic to prevent the story being made public.
The Federal Election Commission later ruled that the company and its former president, David Pecker, struck the deal with Trump officials in order to suppress the story and ‘prevent it from influencing the election’.
The FEC ruling detailed how Pecker and AMI met with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to help make negative stories about Trump and his relationships go away.
And it concluded that AMI ‘coordinated’ with the Trump campaign in paying $150,000 to McDougal. Pecker gave evidence to the Trump grand jury on Monday.
SOURCE: Daily Mail
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