Donald Trump to face criminal charges in a first for a US ex-president

Former president indicted by Manhattan grand jury after inquiry into hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels

Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after an inquiry into hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The charges, arising from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, could reshape the 2024 presidential race. Mr Trump previously said he would continue campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination if charged with a crime.

Mr Trump (76) sought re-election in 2020 but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden. Mr Trump has falsely claimed he lost to Mr Biden due to widespread voting fraud and has called the investigation that led to his indictment a “political witch hunt”. Mr Bragg’s office last year won the criminal conviction of the businessman-turned-politician’s real estate company.

A grand jury convened by Mr Bragg in January began hearing evidence about Mr Trump’s role in the payment to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election that he ended up winning. Ms Daniels, a well-known adult film actor and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received the money in exchange for keeping silent about a sexual encounter she had with Mr Trump in 2006.


The former president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has said Mr Trump directed hush payments to Ms Daniels and to a second woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also said she had a sexual relationship with him. Mr Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.

Federal prosecutors examined the Ms Daniels pay-off in 2018, leading to a prison sentence for Cohen but no charges against Mr Trump.

No former or sitting US president has ever faced criminal charges. Mr Trump also faces two criminal investigations by a special counsel appointed by US attorney general Merrick Garland and one by a local prosecutor in Georgia.

Mr Trump, a divisive figure in US politics with support particularly among white blue-collar and conservative Christian voters, served as president from 2017 to 2021, governing as a right-wing populist. He was impeached twice by the House of Representatives, once in 2019 over his conduct regarding Ukraine and again in 2021 over the attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. He was acquitted by the Senate both times.

He leads his early rivals for his party’s presidential nomination, holding the support of 43 per cent of Republicans in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll, compared with 31 per cent support for his nearest rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce his candidacy. Mr Biden is expected to seek re-election.

Mr Trump on March 18th wrote on social media that he had expected to be arrested on March 21st and urged his supporters to protest to “take our nation back”, reminiscent of his exhortations ahead of the January 6th, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Some leading Republicans ahead of the indictment accused Mr Bragg of selective prosecution with political motivations. The Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, called it an “outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” and announced a congressional investigation into whether federal funding was being used to support Mr Bragg’s inquiry and “subvert our democracy”. Three House Republican committee chairmen asked Mr Bragg to provide them communications, documents and testimony about the investigation.

On March 23rd, Mr Bragg’s office told the three chairmen that Mr Trump had created a “false expectation” that he would be arrested. In a letter, the district attorney’s general counsel said the representatives were seeking non-public information about a pending criminal investigation, which is confidential.

Mr Trump in 2018 initially disputed knowing anything about the payment to Ms Daniels. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment, which he called a “simple private transaction”.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance law violations for his role in orchestrating the payments to Ms Daniels and Ms McDougal and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified that Mr Trump directed him to make the payments.

Cohen testified before the Manhattan grand jury investigating Mr Trump on March 13th. The grand jury also heard from David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer. The tabloid publication bought the rights to Ms McDougal’s story about her alleged relationship with Mr Trump for $150,000 but never published it, a method known as “catch and kill” used by some media outlets to bury damaging information about a third party.

Ms Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Mr Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006 - the year after he married his current wife Melania and more than a decade before the businessman-turned-politician became president.

In the case that led to the conviction of the Trump Organization on tax fraud charges, Mr Bragg declined to charge Mr Trump himself with financial crimes related to his business practices, prompting two prosecutors who worked on the inquiry to resign.

Among Mr Trump’s ongoing legal woes are a criminal investigation led by Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County, into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state.

Special counsel Jack Smith is separately investigating Mr Trump’s handling of classified government documents after leaving office and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.