Donald Trump has been indicted over the “Stormy” Daniels scandal, becoming the first former U.S. president to be formally charged with criminal offenses, and could appear in court next Tuesday.
A grand jury convened in Manhattan, charged with reviewing the case, voted in favor of the indictment sought by the district attorney’s office.
According to Cnn, the charges could be numerous, about 30 just those related to false documents to conceal illicit payments to Daniels, the porn star who threatened to reveal an affair with Trump.
In the evening, prosecutors made the indictment official and said they had informed Trump’s lawyers.
Trump indicted, what he is accused of
The indictment concerns the payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about the affair she had with him virtually while his wife Melania was giving birth to their son Barron.
This in itself is not illegal. However, when Trump reimbursed lawyer Cohen for settling the matter, the record of the payment says it was for “legal fees.” Prosecutors say this amounts to falsifying business records, which is a crime – a criminal offense – in New York.
In detail, Cohen advanced $130,000 out of his own pocket to prevent the story from surfacing. Trump then won the election and, once in the White House, paid the money into the lawyer’s account. The tycoon always said it was a fee payment and had nothing to do with the woman’s case.
Prosecutors could also argue that this violates election law because his attempt to hide payments to Ms. Daniels was motivated by the fact that he did not want voters to know he was having an affair with her.
The Justice Department had already spoken out and decided not to intervene. Paying a person not to speak is considered a “misdemeanor“. But, prosecutors believe this was in violation of the campaign finance law. Trump has always denied doing this so as not to jeopardize the campaign, but prosecutors did not believe him.
What will happen now: voluntary arrest expected on April 4th
Negotiations between the New York District Attorney’s Office, led by Alvin Bragg, and Trump’s attorneys about his voluntary arrival in the city, arrest, and court appearance before a judge, meanwhile, have begun.
A defense lawyer predicted that this will happen on Tuesday of next week. It is possible that Trump, accompanied by Secret Service agents like all former presidents, will be handcuffed, have to undergo fingerprinting and mug shots amid heightened security in the city and high tension.
Trump will then be released without bail because nonviolent crimes are at stake. The Trump camp was caught off guard by the timing of the grand jury decision, which had appeared to want to postpone a vote by several weeks.
Trump indicted, political earthquake
The indictment, at the end of a five-year investigation, certainly shook the political world and the campaign for the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
Trump is running again to win the Republican Party nomination. A clean criminal record is not among the criteria by the U.S. Constitution for running for president. But there is no doubt that any proceedings will have an impact. Thus disqualifying the candidate for some and perhaps mobilizing his loyal supporters.
Also under scrutiny by authorities is the response of right-wing extremist organizations and militias. Which, on some dedicated sites, have denounced the “fall of the Republic.”
Republican leaders alongside Trump
Alongside him is an important part of the Republican leadership, confirming his continued though perhaps uncomfortable influence on the party. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused Bragg of abuse of power, of “an injustice that is unacceptable by Americans”. And, promised parliamentary investigations against him.
Similar over-the-top reactions came from other members of the House’s conservative leadership. Who called the case a “farce” and Attorney Bragg a “corrupt socialist.”
The rival in pectore for the nomination in 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, however, limited himself to first stating that “Florida (where Trump resides, Ed.) will not cooperate with an extradition request given the questionable circumstances.”
DeSantis has also defended Trump without much passion in the past. In a sign of possible internal competition among Republicans and doubts about Trump’s character.
Who is Stormy Daniels
Her real name is Stephany Gregory, 44, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Republican, actress for five years in adult films, then director. The stage name is an homage to Stormy, the name of the daughter of the guitarist of Motley Crue, a 1980s California heavy metal band, and the whiskey brand Jack Daniels.
The woman recounted that she met Trump when she was 27 and he was 60, during a golf tournament in Nevada. According to her account, Trump allegedly told her that she reminded him of his daughter Ivanka, and offered her a part in the TV series “The apprentice.” In the evening they would have a sexual encounter that lasted only a few minutes. The tycoon has always denied it.
When Trump first announced a candidacy in 2011, she tried to sell the story to a magazine. But the tycoon’s lawyer, Cohen, threatened to sue and the magazine canceled the whole thing.
In 2016 Stormy tried again. Then she told the whole story in 2018. Cohen, put on trial, was sentenced to three years in prison for paying the woman under the table and lying to Congress.