NEW YORK - Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury Thursday, the first criminal case ever brought against a former U.S. president and an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
At the focus of the investigation was hush-money payments made to women on Trump’s behalf. Prosecutors from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have been presenting evidence to the grand jury and calling witnesses since January.
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, confirmed Thursday that the grand jury voted to indict Trump but the specific charges were not immediately made public.
Minutes after the indictment was announced, Trump released a lengthy statement calling it the next step in a "witch-hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement."
"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," Trump's statement said.
Trump accused Bragg of "doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on."
Bragg's office later released a statement without any elaboration:
"This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected."
Is Trump getting arrested?
Trump claimed last weekend in a social media post that his arrest was imminent – Tuesday, to be exact, though that day came and went before the investigation concluded and the grand jury voted to indict.
Now that the indictment is official, Trump, 76, would only be arrested if he refuses to surrender.
Trump’s lawyers have previously said he would follow normal procedure, meaning he will agree to surrender at a New York Police Department precinct or directly to Bragg’s office.
Tacopina told FOX 5 NY that Trump is indeed planning to turn himself in next week in New York, but he was not yet sure what day that would happen.
Why was Trump indicted?
The New York grand jury was looking into Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with the Republican years earlier.
The money was paid out of the personal funds of Trump’s now-estranged lawyer, Michael Cohen, who then said he was reimbursed by the Trump Organization and also paid extra bonuses for a total that eventually rose to $420,000.
Cohen was one of several from Trump’s former inner circle to provide testimony to the grand jury.
Trump’s former spokesperson Hope Hicks, his one time political adviser Kellyanne Conway and Daniels herself were also known to be among the witnesses. Trump was also invited to testify, a move that many legal experts said was indicative of an incoming indictment.
Bragg’s office had been examining whether any state laws were broken in connection with the payment or the way Trump’s company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the allegations quiet.
Trump criminal investigations
Trump has long decried the Manhattan investigation as "the greatest witch hunt in history." He has also lashed out at Bragg, calling the prosecutor, who is Black, racist against white people.
The indictment comes as Trump is ramping up a run to regain the White House in 2024 while simultaneously battling various other legal problems.
In addition to the hush money case, Trump faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.
A Justice Department special counsel has also been presenting evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in New York and Washington, D.C. have been bracing for the public safety ramifications as Trump called for protest ahead of the grand jury’s decision.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.