It’s the first time in American history that a sitting or former president has faced a criminal indictment.
A grand jury in Manhattan, New York has voted to indict former President Donald Trump.
It is the first time in U. S. history that a president, sitting or former, has faced criminal indictment.
While the indictment remains sealed, the investigation of Trump by New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg stems from an alleged payment made to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2016.
It is alleged that in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, the Trump organization caught wind that Daniels was attempting to sell a story that she had engaged in an extramarital affair with Trump a decade before the presidential campaign. It is further alleged that Cohen moved to purchase the rights to Daniels’ story as an effort to prevent it from damaging the campaign.
Cohen previously indicated that in 2016, he paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 for the rights to her story. He says that the Trump organization paid him back in 2017.
None of that is illegal, even if the optics aren’t great for the former President. The alleged illegality is how the Trump organization’s payment to Cohen was recorded on its books—as legal fees. It’s been argued that this is a business record falsification, which is a misdemeanor charge in New York. There is also the potential of a felony charge tied to election law, but that would be a more tenuous case. With the indictment presently sealed, there is no way to know for certain.
Whether the alleged affair occurred at all has been the source of some controversy. Trump has denied it. At various times, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has also denied it.
“The fact of the matter is that each party to this alleged affair denied its existence in 2006, 20011, 2016, 2017, and now again in 2018. I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas owned tabloids. I am denying this affair because it never happened,” Daniels wrote in a statement shared by a BuzzFeed in 2018.
However, shortly after making this statement, Daniels recanted and has consistently said since that the affair did occur. Daniels has explained that her previous denial arose out of worry that she would violate the terms of a nondisclosure agreement she had reached with the former President.
Trump, who has announced a third run for the White House, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He and his lawyers have said the investigation is politically motivated.
Multiple sources have reported that Trump will likely surrender to authorities in New York next week.
A previous version of this article noted that Stormy Daniels had denied any extramarital affair with President Trump, but did not provide the context that she had since recanted that denial.