Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after an investigation into hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, marking the first time a former U.S. president has faced criminal charges. The specific charges remain undisclosed, as the indictment is still under seal. CNN reported that Trump faces over 30 counts related to business fraud.
Trump Claims Innocence, Maintains 2024 Presidential Bid
Trump declared his innocence and confirmed he would not withdraw from the 2024 presidential race. He accused Democrat Alvin Bragg of attempting to harm his chances of winning re-election against President Joe Biden. Trump called the situation "political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history" and asked supporters to contribute to his legal defense, raising over $2 million since March 18.
Republican Support Amidst Charges
Trump, currently the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, has received support from several potential challengers, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence. Pence said the charges would only serve to further divide the country. Democrats, however, maintained that Trump is not immune from the rule of law.
Charges to Be Unsealed and Legal Proceedings Begin
The charges are expected to be unsealed by a judge in the coming days, at which point Trump will need to travel to Manhattan for fingerprinting and processing. Trump's lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina stated they would "vigorously fight" the charges. The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges Trump currently faces.
Impact of Charges on Trump's Political Future
Some 44% of Republicans said Trump should drop out of the race if indicted, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. The charges could fuel anger among his core supporters but may cause other Republican voters to grow weary of the drama.
Background on Stormy Daniels Hush Money Case
Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims she received money to remain silent about a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted to coordinating with Trump on the payments to Daniels and another woman, Karen McDougal, but Trump has denied having affairs with either. Cohen served over a year in prison for a campaign-finance violation related to the payments.
Trump's Legal Troubles and Presidential Precedent
No former or sitting U.S. president has ever faced criminal charges. In addition to the Manhattan case, Trump is under investigation by a special counsel appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and a local prosecutor in Georgia. Throughout his time in the White House, Trump weathered two congressional attempts to remove him from office and a lengthy probe into his campaign's contacts with Russia in 2016.