Manhattan grand jury indicts Trump for alleged role in hush-money payment scheme

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31st March 2023 – (New York) A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict former President Donald Trump on Thursday, March 31st, in connection to his alleged role in a hush-money payment scheme. This marks the first time a former president is facing criminal charges. The exact charges remain unknown but are expected to be announced in the coming days.

The investigation dates back to 2016 when Trump allegedly directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have an affair with the former president. Cohen previously pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection to the payment after giving Daniels $130,000 through a shell company he set up.

The former president responded to the indictment, calling it “political persecution” and “election interference at the highest level in history” in a statement. Trump’s lawyers said they will “vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

On Twitter, Daniels retweeted a tweet that said “No one is above the law,” with the comment “Thank you.”

Thursday’s indictment marks the conclusion of an investigation that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been looking into since 2019. Legal experts NewsNation spoke to recently believe the case will be difficult to argue and rely on untested legal theories.

The prosecution’s key witness, Cohen, is a convicted felon and has previously lied to Congress.

Thursday’s criminal charges are just one part of the former president’s ongoing legal troubles. Trump also faces criminal probes into his mishandling of classified documents, alleged election interference in Georgia and his role in the events that transpired on January 6.

Eric Trump, the former president’s son, called the indictment “third world prosecutorial misconduct” and said it’s an “opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, has been criticized by Republicans on Capitol Hill who say the hush money probe is politically motivated.

“This is not what the criminal justice system is supposed to be,” prominent attorney and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo. “It’s not supposed to be creative, it’s not supposed to bring different statutes together that have never been used against somebody.”

In a letter last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said if Bragg were to prosecute Trump, it would “erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice” and “interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election.” Bragg has previously boasted about suing Trump or his administration more than 100 times during his tenure at the New York attorney general’s office.