Trump labels indictment ‘election interference at the highest level’
A New York criminal grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating payments Trump paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in return for her silence during the 2016 election about an affair. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — A New York criminal grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office confirmed following news reports.
A former president has never been indicted before. Trump is also a Republican candidate in the 2024 race for the presidency.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,” a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg wrote in a statement. “Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”
Trump released a statement Thursday evening alleging the indictment is “election interference at the highest level in history.”
“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done,” Trump wrote, blasting the prosecutor and Democrats.
“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,” Trump added. “The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it.”
The New York Times and Washington Post reported Bragg has been investigating alleged payments Trump paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in return for her silence during the 2016 election about an affair.
Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
Trump inaccurately predicted his possible arrest on March 21, but it never materialized.
Members of Congress quickly began to react, along partisan lines, as news reached them Thursday.
Republicans said the indictment was politically motivated and accused Bragg of skewing justice to punish the former Republican president.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential top rival to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination next year, said he would direct Florida authorities not cooperate with New York officials to extradite Trump to face charges. Trump, a New York native and longtime resident of the city, listed Florida as his official residence in 2019.
“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,” DeSantis tweeted.
“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.”
The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head.
It is un-American.
The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is…
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 30, 2023
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, called the indictment “outrageous.”
The sham New York indictment of President Donald Trump is one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents.
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) March 30, 2023
“The sham New York indictment of President Donald Trump is one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents,” Scalise wrote on Twitter.
Many House Republicans who have allied themselves with the former president took aim at Bragg. Reps. Tim Walberg of Michigan, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida accused Bragg of targeting the former president.
“A majority of Americans know Alvin Bragg’s witch hunt is a politically motivated prosecution,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter.
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted, “Outrageous.”
Colorado GOP Rep Lauren Boebert tweeted the indictment “is another political witch hunt targeting the people’s President.”
Fourth-ranking House Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York called the indictment a “dark day” for America but said the criminal indictment has “energized” voters.
“Tens of millions of patriotic Americans have never been so energized to exercise their constitutional rights to peacefully organize and VOTE at the ballot box to save our great republic by electing Donald J. Trump in 2024,” she wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who led one of the impeachment trials against Trump, wrote on Twitter the “indictment of a former president is unprecedented.”
“But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged,” Schiff wrote. “A nation of laws must hold the rich and powerful accountable, even when they hold high office. Especially when they do. To do otherwise is not democracy.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Trump should face “the same laws as every American.”
“He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law,” Schumer said in a statement. “There should be no outside political influence, intimidation or interference in the case. I encourage both Mr. Trump’s critics and supporters to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law.”
North Carolina Democratic Rep. Alma Adams released a statement saying that the promise that “no one is above the law” in the United States was kept with Trump’s indictment.
“Mr. Trump, like every other American, is entitled to due process,” Adams wrote. “That is another core promise of our Constitution. The State of New York has spent years meticulously building their case, and they secured an indictment not from political power brokers or the media, but from a grand jury of ordinary citizens.”
Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, wrote on Twitter that he was skeptical of the indictment.
“This is the same District Attorney who is notorious for letting violent criminals off the hook in Manhattan, but has been laser-focused on pursuing a politicized prosecution of a former president,” he wrote. “Politics should never tip the scales of justice, and Congress has every right to investigate the conduct and decision-making of the Manhattan D.A.’s office.”
The New York case is one of several investigations Trump is facing.
The U.S. House Committee to Investigate the January 6, 2021, Attack on the U.S. Capitol made a criminal referral to the Justice Department at the tail end of its two-year probe that found Trump culpable for that day’s insurrection.
Federal authorities are also looking into Trump’s storage of classified materials at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida after his presidency.
In his March 21 prediction, Trump called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” but did not issue a similar exhortation Thursday.
The indictment follows more than a week of public sniping between Bragg and congressional Republicans.
Three U.S. House committee chairmen, Jordan, Oversight Chairman James Comer of Kentucky and Administration Chairman Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, all Republicans, sent Bragg a letter last week calling the prospective indictment “an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”
Bragg’s office shot back that prosecutors would “not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law.”
Jennifer Shutt, Ariana Figueroa and Ashley Murray contributed to this report.
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