Donald Trump is the first ex-president in US history to face criminal charges. The district attorney's office in Manhattan announced last night (local time) an indictment against the Republican, who is running again for a presidential candidacy.
The indictment is still under lock and key - the exact charges and details are therefore still unclear. The case is about hush money payments to a porn actress. Trump spoke of "political persecution and electoral interference". Various Republicans also reacted with outrage and called the move scandalous.
It's about campaign finance
Trump paid hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels shortly before his election to the presidency in 2016 after she claimed she had had sex with him. Trump denies an affair, but not that money flowed. The payment could conflict with campaign finance rules.
The prosecutor's office in New York had been investigating the matter for years and finally appointed a so-called grand jury, which now voted to indict Trump in the matter. Several US media, including the television broadcaster CNN, reported that there were more than 30 charges. Exactly which one remained open for the time being.
Initially, only a few details came from the district attorney's office. Trump's attorney was contacted to coordinate his transfer to New York for indictment, officials said.
US media, citing Trump's lawyers, reported that the ex-president could probably face justice in New York next week, probably on Tuesday. There was initially no confirmation of this. The prosecutor in Manhattan said only that further details would be communicated as soon as a date for the indictment reading was set.
Convicted criminals can also compete
A trial and a potential conviction that could see the Republican face several years in prison could only affect Trump's plans to run again for the presidency from a political point of view. In purely legal terms, on the other hand, Trump could theoretically also stand as a convicted criminal in the 2024 election, as legal experts emphasize. Trump had publicly announced his presidential bid several months ago.
The 76-year-old reacted outraged to the accusation. "This is political persecution and electoral interference at the highest level in history," the Republican said in a written statement. Trump accused the Democrats of trying to harm him politically since his first presidential bid for the 2016 election and of harassing him with various investigations during his tenure.
Now they have "done the unthinkable - to accuse a completely innocent person in an act of blatant electoral interference," Trump lamented. "This has never happened in the history of our country." All of this will fall back on President Joe Biden and his Democrats. Trump spoke of an attack on the country.
No major protests so far
The ex-president claimed a few days ago that he was about to be arrested in the case - and called on his supporters to protest. New York then prepared for possible demonstrations and increased security around the courthouse in downtown Manhattan. So far, there have been no major protests. That could possibly follow.
Various Republicans reacted with outrage to the charges and saw them as an attack on democracy. Many of them attacked New York Attorney Alvin Bragg. For example, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted about Bragg: "While he routinely releases violent criminals to terrorize the public, he has instrumentalized our sacred legal system against President Donald Trump." McCarthy is considered a Trump ally.
DeSantis criticizes the procedure
But even former companions, who have since distanced themselves from Trump and are considered possible competitors in the party's internal presidential race for the 2024 election, have criticized the approach. "When the legal system is used as a weapon to advance a political agenda, the rule of law is turned on its head," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter. It is expected that DeSantis will also run as a presidential candidate. Next to Trump, he is considered the most promising candidate from the ranks of the Republicans.
Trump's former deputy, ex-Vice President Mike Pence, who is also said to have ambitions for a presidential bid, also described the indictment as a "scandal". Pence told CNN: "This will only serve to further divide this country."