Donald Trump indicted by NY grand jury

New York: Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, prosecutors and defense lawyers said Thursday, making him the first former U.S. president to face a criminal charge and jolting his bid to retake the White House next year.

The charges remained under seal late Thursday, but the investigation centered on payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter.

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.

Prosecutors said they were working to coordinate Trump’s surrender, which could happen early next week, but they did not say whether they intended to seek prison time in the event of a conviction.

Arriving at a time of deep political divisions, the charges are likely to reinforce rather than reshape dueling perspectives of those who see accountability as long overdue and those who, like Trump, feel the Republican is being targeted for political purposes by a Democratic prosecutor.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly assailed the investigation, called the indictment “political persecution” and predicted it would damage Democrats in 2024. In a statement confirming the charges, defense lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Trump “did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed the indictment and said prosecutors had reached out to Trump’s defense team to coordinate a surrender. A person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to discuss sealed proceedings, said the surrender was expected to happen next week. District Attorney Alvin Bragg left his office Thursday evening without commenting.

The timing of the indictment appeared to come as a surprise to Trump campaign officials following news reports that criminal charges were likely weeks away. The former president was at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, on Thursday and had filmed an interview with a conservative commentator earlier in the day.

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