Manhattan grand jury reportedly votes to indict Trump over 2016 'hush money' payments

March 30, 2023
Ben Marquis

The grand jury empaneled by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has reportedly voted in favor of an indictment against former President Donald Trump, according to the Associated Press.

That news came from Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina, who told the AP that he had just been informed of the grand jury's vote, though the specific charges have not yet been revealed.

The AP further reported that, per an unnamed source said to be "familiar with the matter," the indictment remains under seal for now and Trump is expected to turn himself in to New York authorities next week.

Grand jury votes to indict

The announcement Thursday evening of an indictment against former President Trump -- the first criminal indictment ever in U.S. history of a former president -- comes as a shock to some as the media had broadly reported just one day earlier that the Manhattan grand jury was about to go on a month-long hiatus and that an indictment likely wouldn't come until at least late April.

That was either a mistaken assessment or a head-fake from DA Bragg, as Fox News reported that it appears that Bragg is moving forward with criminal charges related to a 2016 "hush money" payment of $130,000 made by Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen to former porn actress Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

Bragg's office is also reportedly considering charges in relation to a separate 2016 payment of $150,000 in "hush money" to former Playboy model Karen McDougal by the National Enquirer, the then-CEO of which was a close ally of Trump, on behalf of Trump to similarly silence her about an alleged affair years earlier.

Interestingly enough, both of those payments had already been investigated years ago at the federal and state level -- including by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Elections Commission, and the previous Manhattan district attorney -- but in all instances, the probes had ultimately been dropped with no charges filed.

Michael Cohen at the center of Bragg's case

CNBC reported that DA Bragg's investigation was centered on allegations that Trump in 2016 had falsified business records, a misdemeanor crime, by labeling a reimbursement to then-attorney Cohen as "legal expenses."

He has sought to elevate that relatively minor crime to a felony by arguing that it was done to cover up a separate crime, a federal campaign finance law violation, by asserting that the "hush money" payments aided his presidential campaign and should have been reported as campaign contributions.

Cohen, who was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, perjury before Congress, and campaign finance violations, according to Fox News, ultimately turned on his former boss at that time to cooperate with federal prosecutors and is now considered to be the star witness in Bragg's case against Trump.

Trump decries "political persecution," majority of voters agree

Former President Trump issued a statement Thursday evening in which he denounced the indictment as "political persecution" and "election interference" and a continuation of the incessant Democratic "witch hunt" against him since before he was even elected. He further decried the "weaponizing" of the justice system against him and asserted that DA Bragg was a "disgrace."

Trump is not alone in suspecting that this criminal indictment against him is politically motivated, as a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that a solid majority of 62 percent of American voters agreed with that assessment of the prosecutorial effort.

That 62 percent who believe Bragg's efforts are "mainly motivated by politics" included 93 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents, and even 29 percent of Democrats.

Conversely, only 32 percent overall think the prosecution is "mainly motivated by the law," and that includes 66 percent of Democrats but just 26 percent of independents and only 5 percent of Republicans.

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