A New York grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump, the former “Apprentice” star who also served as President of the United States from 2017-2021.
The charges stem from Trump paying adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels a six-figure sum as hush money over a one-night stand he had with her in 2006, when his wife Melania was pregnant with their only child, Barron.
Specific charges were not known at press time. Speaking on MSNBC the afternoon of March 30, former Mueller investigation attorney Andrew Weissmann said he assumed at least one felony charge would be forthcoming.
Trump’s one-time lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, arranged for Daniels in 2016 to receive a $130,000 check so as to withhold the news of their tryst from the public, just as the reality TV star was in the clubhouse turn on his successful presidential bid. But when Daniels went public with the hush-money payment in early 2018, it embroiled the presidency in controversy: The Trump campaign marked the $130,000 sum as “legal expenses” and it came directly from Cohen rather than from Trump, a misidentification that prosecutors describe as money laundering.
Cohen served one year of a three-year federal prison sentence and paid a $50,000 fine before being released in May 2020. Proving that Trump ordered Cohen to engage in these money-laundering tactics was a more difficult, time-consuming case to build.
Trump faces multiple other criminal investigations. These include the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney’s investigation into whether the former president engaged in election meddling and pressured Georgia state election officials to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
It’s also possible the Department of Justice could bring incitement charges against Trump for his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection, as illuminated by the House Special Committee on January 6. There’s also ongoing discovery in the claim by writer E. Jean Carroll that Trump sexually assaulted her at Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman luxury department store in the mid ’90s.
And, of course, there’s an ongoing FBI investigation into the former president having taken classified documents to his Palm Beach country club, Mar-a-Lago.
Speaking on CNN, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times said the indictment came as a surprise to the Trump camp as they thought the grand jury would not meet for some time yet. On March 18, Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social that he expected to be arrested on March 21.
Unknown is whether the charges against Trump could bolster his announced 2024 presidential bid. Images of him doing a “perp walk” could rally his followers as a symbol of what they perceive as persecution of the former president. He currently leads all polls of Republican voters in their preference for the GOP nominee.