Trump likely to be arrested and charged over hush money
Former US President Donald Trump is likely to be arrested and charged over hush money payments made to a porn star just before the 2016 presidential election.
The details of the charges he faces have not yet been released.
A grand jury has voted to indict him after investigating a $130,000 pay-out to Stormy Daniels in an attempt to buy her silence over an alleged affair.
Mr Trump, 76, denies wrongdoing. He is the first serving or former US president to face a criminal charge.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been pursuing the investigation, confirmed the indictment.
“This evening we contacted Mr Trump’s attorney to co-ordinate his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,” said the statement.
The ex-president lives in Florida and is expected to travel to New York City for his formal arrest and first hearing in court.
According to his defence team, Mr Trump will surrender next week. The United States Secret Service – which is tasked with protecting serving and former US presidents – will be in charge of security for the court appearance.
Mr Trump faces the prospect of having his fingerprints recorded and his mugshot taken, like all defendants in criminal cases.
In a statement, Mr Trump lashed out at the Manhattan district attorney. He called the prosecutor a “disgrace”, and accused him of “doing Joe Biden’s dirty work”.
“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,” he said.
Mr Trump has repeatedly slammed the investigation in his hometown of New York as a political “witch hunt” led by his opponents. Mr Bragg is a registered Democrat.
The district attorney has denied pursuing a political vendetta against Mr Trump, tweeting this month: “We evaluate cases in our jurisdiction based on the facts, the law, and the evidence.”
Mr Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, said in a statement: “He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”
The inquiry stems from an allegation that Mr Trump directed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to pay Stormy Daniels, a former porn actress and stripper, less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election to prevent her speaking out about an alleged affair with Mr Trump.
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.
Cohen has said in court that he made the $130,000 settlement “in co-ordination with and at the direction of” the former president. Cohen was jailed from 2018-20 on multiple charges.
Mr Trump is currently the front-runner among all declared and potential contenders for the Republican White House nomination.
But there is nothing in US law that prevents a candidate who is found guilty of a crime from campaigning for, and serving as, president – even from prison.
His campaign sent out fundraising emails on Thursday evening, citing the indictment.
Some Congressional Republicans are rallying behind Mr Trump.
House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said: “Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election.
“As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump.”
But Democrats welcomed the indictment, arguing it showed no-one was above the law.
Congressman Adam Schiff said: “The indictment and arrest of a former president is unique throughout all of American history.
“But so too is the unlawful conduct for which Trump has been charged.”
Mr Trump is also being investigated in several other cases.
They include probes into his role in the US Capitol riot of January 2021, his efforts to overturn his loss in the state of Georgia in the 2020 election, and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Mr Trump – who served as president from 2017-21 – was twice impeached by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted by the Senate both times. (BBC / Colombo Gazette)