Manhattan prosecutors secure grand jury indictment against Trump, thrusting nation into new turmoil

Charges involve Stormy Daniels hush money allegations; Trump has not yet been arrested but he will face arraignment in days ahead,

Published: March 30, 2023 5:40pm

Updated: March 30, 2023 7:49pm

Prosecutors in Manhattan notified Donald Trump's lawyers Thursday that they secured a grand jury indictment against the former president in connection with a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels seven years ago, thrusting an America already in turmoil into unchartered legal and political waters ahead of a 2024 presidential election.

Trump's lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed to Just the News he received the notification, though the indictment remains sealed and the exact charges were not immediately known.

The 45th president immediately issued a statement declaring his innocence and decrying the indictment on state charges as a fresh political weaponization of the legal system designed to interfere with his campaign for a second term in the White House.

"The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to 'Get Trump,' but now they've done the unthinkable - indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference," he said. "Never before in our Nation's history has this been done."

The development put voters in an unprecedented position: no current or former president in American history has ever been charged with a crime.

Trump was twice impeached by the House and twice acquitted by the Senate during his presidency. But both and state and federal prosecutors declined to bring the hush money case to court before Bragg --a controversial prosecutor backed by liberal mega-donor George Soros -- suddenly revived it a few months ago.

The news of an indictment brought swift condemnation from the left and the right. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal supporter of President Joe Biden, called the decision the worst abuse of prosecutorial discretion he has seen in 60 years as a lawyer.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called it an "abuse of power" and vowed Congress would hold Bragg to account.

Even Trump's potential rival in the 2024 race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, called the indictment un-American and vowed his state would not cooperate with any extradition requests from New York. 

“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” DeSantis tweeted.

Trump has not yet been arrested but he will face arraignment on the charges, be fingerprinted, and may be handcuffed. 

Elizabeth Harrington, Trump's national spokeswoman, said the current plan was for Trump to surrender voluntarily and fight the charges. "He is innocent," she told Just the News, adding that Trump would continue to campaign for the presidency as he fought any charges.

The indictment drew scrutiny from George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley, who called it an "inglorious moment where even some of the left have criticized the effort."

"Bragg and NY AG James ran on bagging Trump," he continued. "This has fulfilled that pledge but, if the indictment follows the course described in coverage, it is deeply flawed theory."

The case involves a payment of $130,000 that Trump's then-personal attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels. Trump later paid the same amount to Cohen and listed that payment as a legal fee.

Bragg's case may hinge upon the categorization of that listing as a falsified business record. He would further need to convince a jury that the payment constituted a campaign finance violation.

Bragg needs to prove both points in order to show that the allegedly falsified business record was altered to conceal a separate, underlying crime. Merely asserting the first point would constitute a lesser charge that carries a two-year statute of limitation, which has already passed.

Legal experts have derided the case as baseless and Trump's new personal attorney, Joe Tacopina, has asserted that such a payment to Cohen was, in fact, a legitimate legal fee.

Moreover, he has insisted that the transaction would "exist irrespective of the campaign," a key point in arguing against its status as a campaign payment. 

Tacopina characterized the matter as a "nuisance" payment, noting that Trump denies ever having an affair.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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