WASHINGTON — In the first ever criminal case against a former president, Donald Trump has been indicted on charges involving payments made during his 2016 campaign to quash claims of two extramarital affairs.
Prosecutors in New York focused on money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep the women from going public with claims that they had sexual encounters with him.
Trump, who’s running for the White House again in 2024, called the decision by a Manhattan grand jury to indict him “political persecution and election interference at the highest level.”
Trump calls it a witch hunt
Minutes after the indictment was announced Thursday, Trump released a lengthy statement calling it the next step in a campaign from the left “to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”
“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,” Trump’s statement said.
Trump accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of “doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on.”
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said the former president is a victim “of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated.”
Many Republicans line up behind Trump
Republicans from the former president’s son to GOP senators lashed out at the indictment. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the conservative chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a one-word reaction: “Outrageous.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed “the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
One of Trump’s most loyal supporters in Congress, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, said, without citing evidence, that Trump was innocent and “the only one standing in the way of these modern day tyrants.”
Eric Trump, the former president’s son, said: “This is third-world prosecutorial misconduct.” In a text to The Associated Press, he called the indictment an opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.
“New York is being overrun by violence, children are being shot in Time Square, homelessness is through the roof yet the only focus of the New York DA is to get Trump,” Eric Trump said.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had served as Trump’s press secretary at the White House, said Bragg should resign.
Democrats cite the rule of law
Democrats, meanwhile, said if Trump broke the law, he should face charges like any American. Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat, said in a tweet: “The indictment of a former president is unprecedented. But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged.”
Schiff said: “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.”
Democratic New York Rep. Dan Goldman, who served as lead counsel in the first impeachment trial of Trump, said in a statement that “no person is above the law.”
“As the process plays out, every elected official from across the ideological spectrum must make unequivocally clear that there is no room for political violence or interference,” Goldman said. “Donald Trump’s defense must take place in the court of law, not in the halls of Congress or in the political sphere.”