The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence in the Stormy Daniels “hush money” investigation on Thursday voted to indict the former president, two sources with knowledge of the case told The NY Post.
The vote sets the stage for the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former US president.
The grand jury that returned the unprecedented indictment had since January been hearing evidence and witness testimony related to a hush-money payment made on Trump’s behalf to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.
It comes as Trump, 76, gains momentum over Ron DeSantis with a double-digit lead heading into the 2024 Republican Primary race.
Trump has repeatedly blasted the investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as a “political Witch-Hunt trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party” and insisted “I did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Trump, who announced he expected to be arrested on March 21 and called on his supporters to protest, also accused District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of “prosecutorial misconduct,” and claimed any charges brought against him would be barred by statute of limitations.
In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair she had with the New York real estate mogul in 2006. Trump denies the affair.
Several figures close to Trump were spotted in March heading into the DA’s office for meetings with prosecutors, including his former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and ex-spokesperson Hope Hicks, as well as Cohen.
Cohen paid Daniels personally but was reimbursed by the Trump Organization under the guise of legal expenses – leading federal prosecutors to charge the money had been falsely accounted for.
Bragg’s case hinges on the allegation that the crime of falsifying business records — bookkeeping fraud — was done in the commission of another crime, a campaign finance violation, The New York Times reported in March. The Times reported the charge would amount to a “low level” felony.
If Trump is convicted of bookkeeping fraud as a felony he could face up to four years in prison.
The charge usually has a five-year statute of limitations as a felony, but those are extended when a defendant continuously lives out of state, as Trump did during his presidency, the Times reported.
He also faces a federal investigation headed by a special counsel who is probing his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House and his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, calling the probes into him a “witch hunt,” the NY Post reported.