VIDEO | Andonovic: Indictment against Trump – Political calculation or a crime?
A Manhattan grand jury has indicted Donald Trump following an investigation into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, making him the first former US president to face criminal charges despite announcing he will run for the White House again.
The specific charges are not yet known because the indictment is sealed. CNN reported Thursday that Trump faces more than 30 counts of business fraud.
Trump said he was "completely innocent" and hinted he would not drop out of the 2024 presidential race. He accused Attorney General Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of trying to undermine his chances of winning again against Democratic President Joe Biden. "This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history," he said in a statement.
The events underlying the indictment against Trump in New York — secret payments to a porn star who claims she had sex with him — took place nearly seven years ago.
But any potential trial is at least more than a year away, legal experts say, raising the possibility that the former US president could face a jury in a Manhattan courtroom during or even after the 2024 presidential campaign as he tries to return to The White House.
A grand jury voted to indict Trump after months of hearing evidence about a $130.000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 campaign. The money was intended to buy her silence about a sexual relationship she says they had years earlier.
Legal analysts say Trump is likely to be prosecuted for falsifying business records on charges of concealing the true nature of the payments. Trump has denied Daniels' claim, and his lawyer has accused Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, of extortion.
.Trump, the first former US president to face criminal charges, is the leading potential challenger for the Republican nomination, according to polls, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for the White House.
In the first three quarters of 2022, the average criminal case in Manhattan took more than 900 days to go from indictment to verdict, according to the State Department of Criminal Justice Services — and Trump's case is far from typical.
That could scuttle any trial on Election Day in November 2024, though an impeachment attempt by the president-elect or president would enter uncharted legal waters. If elected, he would not have the power to pardon himself.
The New York case is one of several focused on Trump, including an investigation into election meddling in Georgia and two federal probes into his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that involved his supporters trying to overturn election results in November 2020, where he was defeated. Another investigation concerns his retention of classified documents after he left the White House.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has slammed the indictment against Donald Trump and vowed the state will not help bring him to justice, even as reports suggest the former president plans to voluntarily surrender to authorities in New York.
DeSantis, who is expected to challenge Trump for the Republican presidential nomination later this year, had previously said he would not interfere in any way in the impeachment of Trump and at the time supporters of the former president accused him of disloyalty.
The Republican governor's decision to criticize Trump's impeachment has him among a large number of other Republicans who have sided with Trump.
"Using the legal system to achieve political goals turns the rule of law upside down." It's un-American," DeSantis wrote on Twitter, Politico reported.
"Manhattan's District Attorney, who is supported by Soros, has repeatedly circumvented the law to reduce the number of crimes and thereby justify his misconduct. Now, however, he is expanding the law to target a political opponent. "Florida will not assist in the extradition request given the questionable circumstances surrounding this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda," DeSantis added.
Under Florida law, the governor can intervene in the case if delivery is contested. However, Trump's lawyers have indicated that Trump will surrender.
DeSantis' stance on the indictment has been highly anticipated, as he has engaged in a series of verbal spats with the former US president in recent weeks.