Trump claims innocence after grand jury indictment

Donald Trump says his indictment by a grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to a porn star is “political persecution and election interference” as he makes a run for the White House.

Mar 31, 2023, updated Mar 31, 2023
Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

The charges, arising from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, could reshape the 2024 presidential race. Trump previously said he would continue campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination if charged with a crime.

In a statement on Thursday, Trump said he was “completely innocent”.

“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” he said, providing no evidence.

The specific charges are not yet known and the indictment will likely be unsealed by a judge in the coming days. Trump will have to travel to Manhattan for fingerprinting and other processing at that point.

His lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said they will “vigorously fight” the charges.

Necheles said she did not know when Trump would surrender.

Bragg’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges facing Trump, and the charges could hurt his presidential comeback attempt. Some 44 per cent of Republicans said he should drop out of the race if he is indicted, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week.

The White House declined to comment.

Bragg’s office last year won the criminal conviction of the businessman-turned-politician’s real estate company.

The grand jury convened by Bragg in January began hearing evidence about Trump’s role in the payment to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election that he ended up winning. Daniels, a well-known adult film actress and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received the money in exchange for keeping silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.

Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006, the year after he married his current wife Melania and more than a decade before the businessman-turned-politician became president.

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The US Supreme Court in 2021 rejected her bid to revive a defamation lawsuit she brought against Trump over a Twitter post in which he accused her of a “con job” after she described being threatened over publicising her account of a sexual relationship with him. Lower courts had thrown out her suit.

No former or sitting US president has ever faced criminal charges. Trump also faces two criminal investigations by a special counsel appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland and one by a local prosecutor in Georgia.

Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021, governing as a right-wing populist. He was impeached twice by the House of Representatives, once in 2019 over his conduct regarding Ukraine and again in 2021 over the attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. He was acquitted by the Senate both times.

He leads his early rivals for his party’s nomination, holding the support of 44 per cent of Republicans in a March Reuters/Ipsos poll, compared with 30 per cent support for his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce his candidacy. Biden is expected to seek re-election.

Trump falsely claims that his 2020 re-election loss to Democrat Joe Biden was the result of widespread voting fraud.

Trump on March 18 urged his supporters to protest to “take our nation back” ahead of an expected indictment, recalling his exhortations ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

In the case that led to the conviction of the Trump Organisation on tax fraud charges, Bragg declined to charge Trump himself with financial crimes related to his business practices, prompting two prosecutors who worked on the probe to resign.

Among Trump’s ongoing legal woes are a criminal investigation led by Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County, into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state.

Special counsel Jack Smith is separately investigating Trump’s handling of classified government documents after leaving office and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.


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