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MONDAY, May 29, 2023
Trump hit with criminal charges in New York, a first for a US ex-president

Trump hit with criminal charges in New York, a first for a US ex-president

FRIDAY, March 31, 2023

Donald Trump has been indicted on Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.

Trump hit with criminal charges in New York, a first for a US ex-president

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. 

Trump, 76, sought re-election in 2020 but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has falsely claimed he lost to Biden due to widespread voter fraud and has called the investigation that led to his indictment a "political witch hunt." Bragg's office last year won the criminal conviction of the businessman-turned-politician's real estate company.

A 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.

The former president's lawyer Michael Cohen has said Trump directed hush payments to Daniels and to a second woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also said she had a sexual relationship with him. Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.

Federal prosecutors examined the Daniels payoff in 2018, leading to a prison sentence for Cohen but no charges against Trump.

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 hit with criminal charges in New York, a first for a US ex-president

Trump, a divisive figure in US politics with support particularly among white blue-collar and conservative Christian voters, 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 43% of Republicans in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll, compared with 31% support for his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce his candidacy. Biden is expected to seek re-election.

Trump on March 18 wrote on social media that he had expected to be arrested on March 21 and urged his supporters to protest to "take our nation back," reminiscent of his exhortations ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Some leading Republicans ahead of the indictment accused Bragg of selective prosecution with political motivations. The Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, called it an "outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA" and announced a congressional investigation into whether federal funding was being used to support Bragg's probe and "subvert our democracy." Three House Republican committee chairmen asked Bragg to provide them with communications, documents and testimony about the investigation.  

Trump hit with criminal charges in New York, a first for a US ex-president

On March 23, Bragg's office told the three chairmen that Trump had created a "false expectation" that he would be arrested. In a letter, the district attorney's general counsel said the representatives were seeking non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential.

Trump 2018 initially disputed knowing anything about the payment to Daniels. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment, which he called a "simple private transaction."

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance law violations for his role in orchestrating the payments to Daniels and McDougal and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified that Trump directed him to make the payments.

Cohen testified before the Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump on March 13. The grand jury also heard from David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer. The tabloid publication bought the rights to McDougal's story about her alleged relationship with Trump for $150,000 but never published it, a method known as "catch and kill" used by some media outlets to bury damaging information about a third party.

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.

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 publicizing her account of a sexual relationship with him. Lower courts had thrown out her suit.

In the case that led to the conviction of the Trump Organization 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.

Below is a timeline of events leading up to the charges:


The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to prevent her from discussing a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006.

Trump has consistently denied having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.


Michael Cohen, a former private lawyer and fixer for Trump, says he paid Daniels using his own money and was not directed by Trump's company or campaign to make the payment. He said Trump never reimbursed him for the payment.

Cohen would later contradict both statements under oath, stating Trump did direct him to make the payment and reimbursed him.


The New Yorker magazine reports that Trump had an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal from 2006 to 2007. The magazine said American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, paid McDougal $150,000 shortly after Trump became the Republican nominee for president in 2016 for exclusive rights to her story.

The National Enquirer never published the story.

APRIL 2018

Trump, when asked by reporters if he knew about the payment to Daniels, responded, "No." Asked why Cohen made the payment, Trump said, "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen."

MAY 2018

In an ethics disclosure, Trump acknowledges reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Daniels.

JULY 2018

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers at the time, says Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the 2016 election in which the two discussed a potential payment to McDougal. Trump denies wrongdoing and calls Cohen's tape "perhaps illegal."


Cohen pleads guilty to criminal charges in Manhattan federal court, including campaign finance violations over the hush money payments. He testified that Trump directed him to make the payments "for the principal purpose of influencing the election."

In their indictment of Cohen, prosecutors say a candidate for federal office referred to as "Individual-1" arranged the payments. Trump was not charged with a crime. Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan at the time, later confirmed that Trump was Individual-1.


Trump, on Twitter, calls the hush money payments a "simple private transaction." In an interview with Reuters, he says the payment to Daniels "wasn't a campaign contribution" and "there was no violation based on what we did."


Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney at the time, issues a subpoena to the Trump Organization - Trump's family real estate company - for records of hush money payments.

JULY 2021

Vance's office indicts the Trump Organization and its top financial executive on tax fraud charges. Trump himself is not charged with a crime, and the indictment contains no references to hush money payments.


Two top prosecutors leading the probe into Trump's business practices resign. One of the prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz, later said his resignation came after Alvin Bragg - who replaced Vance as District Attorney - indicated to him he had doubts about pursuing a case against Trump.

Bragg's office says the investigation is ongoing.


The Trump Organization is found guilty of tax fraud after a trial in New York state court in Manhattan.


Bragg's office begins presenting evidence about Trump's alleged role in the 2016 hush money payments to a grand jury.

MARCH 2023

Manhattan prosecutors invite Trump to testify before the grand jury, which legal experts say is a sign an indictment could come soon. Cohen testifies before the grand jury.

MARCH 18 2023

Trump says on his social media platform Truth Social that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday (March 21) and calls on his supporters to protest. A spokesperson for Trump said the former president had not been notified of any arrest.