Former US President Donald Trump was indicted on criminal charges in New York on Thursday for his role in organizing hush money payments made to an adult film star during his 2016 campaign, multiple US media outlets reported.
The indictment marks the first time a President has been charged in a criminal matter and comes as several law enforcement entities are investigating Trump’s conduct in numerous probes.
The indictment has been filed under seal and will be announced in the coming days. The charges are not publicly known at this time, one source told CNN.
The indictment, which remains under seal, follows an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg which that centered on a $130,000 payment fixer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.
Trump’s company labeled Cohen’s reimbursement of the payment as a legal expense and did not disclose them in campaign expense reports, according to The Hill.
Bragg’s office will reach out to Trump’s attorneys to discuss his surrender to face an arraignment, according to CNN.
Bragg late on Thursday confirmed the indictment of Trump, and his office said the Republican's lawyers have been contacted to "coordinate his surrender... for arraignment."
"Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected," a spokesperson for Bragg said in a statement, adding that the indictment is still sealed.
The former President is expected to turn himself in early next week, his attorney Joe Tacopina told NBC News.
Trump was caught off guard by the grand jury’s decision to indict him, according to a person who spoke directly with him.
The former President released a statement on Thursday night in which he described the indictment as “political persecution”.
“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats — the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country — have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement. You remember it just like I do: Russia, Russia, Russia; the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine; Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2; the illegal and unconstitutional Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this,” said Trump.
“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,” he added.
“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.”
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace. Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time!”
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden. The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our Movement, and our Party — united and strong — will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” concluded the former President.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a witch hunt and previously called on supporters to protest his arrest.