Trump expected to turn himself in early next week, lawyers say
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - UPDATE: Trump will likely be arraigned in court early next week, according to his defense attorney, Joe Tacopina.
ORIGINAL STORY: A grand jury in Manhattan has voted to indict Donald Trump -- the first time in American history that a current or former president has faced criminal charges, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The grand jury indictment of Trump, 76, is an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings. It is likely to galvanize critics who say Trump lied and cheated his way to the top and embolden supporters who feel the Republican is being unfairly targeted by a Democratic prosecutor.
A Manhattan grand jury, according to the Associated Press, has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, through a shell company before being reimbursed by Trump, whose company, the Trump Organization, logged the reimbursements as legal expenses. The long-running investigation first began under Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance, when Trump was in office.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen also arranged for former Playboy model Karen McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the publisher of the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer, which then squelched her story in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill.”
Trump denies having sex with either woman.
Trump’s company “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for the Daniels payment to defray tax payments, according to federal prosecutors who filed criminal charges against the lawyer in connection with the payments in 2018. In all, Cohen got $360,000 plus a $60,000 bonus, for a total of $420,000.
Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments. Federal prosecutors say the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. But they declined to file charges against Trump himself.
Bragg’s team has been to be looking at whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and has slammed the Manhattan district attorney’s office probe as politically motivated.
In bringing the charges, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is embracing an unusual case that had been investigated by two previous sets of prosecutors, both of which declined to take the politically explosive step of seeking Trump’s indictment.
In the weeks leading up to the indictment, Trump railed about the investigation on social media and urged supporters to protest on his behalf, prompting tighter security around the Manhattan criminal courthouse.
The legal action against Trump jolts the 2024 presidential campaign into a new phase -- where the former president has vowed to keep running in the face of criminal charges.
Trump has frequently called the various investigations surrounding him a “witch hunt,” attempting to sway public opinion on them by casting himself as a victim of what he’s claimed are political probes led by Democratic prosecutors. As the indictment reportedly neared, Trump urged his supporters to protest his arrest, echoing his calls to action following the 2020 election as he tried to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.
Trump has long avoided legal consequences in his personal, professional and political lives. He has settled a number of private civil lawsuits through the years and paid his way out of disputes concerning the Trump Organization, his namesake company. As president, he was twice impeached by the Democratic-led House, but avoided conviction by the Senate.
In December, the Trump Organization was convicted on multiple charges of tax fraud, though Trump himself was not charged in that case.
Trump’s Republican allies -- as well as his 2024 GOP rivals -- have condemned the Manhattan district attorney’s office over the looming indictment, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to launch an investigation into the matter.
Bragg’s office had signaled as recently as early March that they were close to bringing charges against Trump after they invited the ex-president to testify before the grand jury probing the hush money scheme. Potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges. But Trump ultimately declined to appear before the panel.
Trump faces other potential legal perils as he seeks to reassert control of the Republican Party and stave off a slew of one-time allies who are seeking or are likely to oppose him for the presidential nomination.
The district attorney in Atlanta has for two years been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 vote count.
“There are actually two very different kinds of grand juries,” says Kay Levine, a Professor of Law at Emory University. “There is an investigative grand jury--that’s what’s happening in Fulton County, and there is an indictment grand jury, which is what is happening in New York. An investigative grand jury doesn’t have the power to issue an indictment. It is basically conducting its own investigation, and they will turn it over to D.A. Willis, and she will decide whether to have an indictment grand jury.”
When asked if one investigation could affect the other, Levine explains:
”There’s no actual crossover between the falsifying business records case, and the solicitation of election fraud case here, and the January 6th inciting a riot,” she says.
“If the Georgia case goes the same direction, and if the Washington D.C. case goes the same direction, three simultaneous criminal prosecutions against a former president might make us a new world leader in something.”
Levine notes there is no law that prevents Trump from running if he were to be convicted. However, she points out it may take him away from the campaign trail.
“There are court hearings you have to attend, and I don’t know how much judges in any of these cases will be sympathetic that he needs to be in Nevada, or Washington state, or Mississippi for a campaign event, instead of appearing for a court hearing,” she explains.
Trump released the following statement in response to his indictment:
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats - the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country - have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement. You remember it just like I do: Russia, Russia, Russia; the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine; Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2; the illegal and unconstitutional Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this.
“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.
“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace. Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time!
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden. The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our Movement, and our Party - united and strong - will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) said,
“America should be the last place on Earth allowing political prosecutions, yet here we are. From J6 defendants to our former president, the weaponization of our justice system by the radical left is destroying our country. With this witch hunt, Alvin Bragg is betraying the trust of all Americans while failing to do his job of protecting New Yorkers from violent criminals. This is a disgrace.”
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