Former president maintains his innocence
By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York City Thursday, potentially kicking off one of the most controversial court cases in decades and the first criminal charges against a former or sitting president.
The specific charges and details of the indictment have not yet been released, but prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Trump allegedly paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and illegally covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.
His attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Mr. Trump likely will be arraigned early next week.
Reacting to the indictment, Mr. Trump reiterated his stance that the investigation was a political witch hunt by Democrats and maintained his innocence.
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable — indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” he said in a statement. “Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done.
“The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.”
Analysts are divided on whether the indictment will hurt Mr. Trump politically or propel him as a martyr for his movement. Mr. Trump is running again for president in 2024. An indictment alone won’t affect his ability to run.
Mr. Trump warned earlier this month that he would be arrested and called for his supporters to protest and “take our nation back.” Mr. Trump’s rhetoric sparked criticism from those who said he was asking for another event akin to the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Trump also faces investigations into whether he incited those riots, as well as a probe in Georgia over allegations he attempted to overturn the 2020 election results, among others.
In his Thursday evening statement, Mr. Trump also took aim at New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who secured the indictment, as well as President Joe Biden.
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by (billionaire Democratic donor) George Soros, is a disgrace,” he said. “Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time! I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said that District Attorney Bragg was “funded by 1 million dollars from Soros” and has a “political vendetta against President Trump.”
“Being from New York we know that Alvin Bragg is ultimately the most radical District Attorney you can get,” she wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Bragg will have the power to decide whether to arrest and prosecute Trump now that he has the indictment. Legal experts have cast doubt on whether there really is a strong enough case against the former president.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has already joined other Republican lawmakers in launching an investigation into District Attorney Bragg, who has taken fire for releasing violent criminals into the city.
“Was the Manhattan D.A.’s office in communication with DOJ about their investigation of President Trump?” Rep. Jordan said. “Was the Manhattan DA’s office using federal funds to investigate President Trump? Alvin Bragg owes our committee answers.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.