NEW YORK — Former president Donald Trump has been indicted in New York on charges related to payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital affair, according to his lawyer.
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, said he had been told that a grand jury that had been meeting for months voted to indict Trump. The specific charges were not immediately released.
The investigation centers on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who alleged that they had extramarital encounters with Trump. Witnesses who testified to the grand jury included former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated the payments at Trump's direction.
Specifically, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team is focused on whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.
Trump denies the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong. The Republican has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging his 2024 presidential campaign.
What's an indictment?
An indictment is a formal statement that someone has been charged with a crime. In this case, the indictment came from a grand jury.
A New York grand jury of 23 people has been considering if there is enough evidence to file charges. In a grand jury, prosecutors call and question witnesses, and grand jurors can also ask questions. A grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to issue an indictment; they may also find there is not enough evidence of a crime or direct the prosecutor to file lesser charges.
Justice Department policy prohibits the federal indictment of a sitting president, but Trump is now two years out of office and no longer benefits from that legal shield, and the New York case is at the state level, not federal.
What happens next?
Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina said previously that if Trump was indicted, his team would "follow the normal procedures.” This means the former president would likely surrender at Bragg's office or a New York City police precinct.
While defendants accused of white-collar crimes can often avoid a public "perp walk," the New York Times says Trump would have his fingerprints and mug shot taken as part of the routine steps for a felony arrest in the state.
Law enforcement officials have been preparing security plans for a possible Trump indictment. Sources told the Associated Press conversations were preliminary but involved considering security, planning and the practicalities of a potential court appearance by a former president
The hush-money case is one of several potential criminal cases the Republican faces as he mounts a comeback run for the White House in 2024, along with an investigation into election interference in Georgia, the probe of storage of classified documents at his Florida home, and other matters.