A New York grand jury on Thursday indicted Donald Trump on unspecified criminal charges in a case that marks the first time a former president has been charged criminally.
Although the charges were not made public, the grand jury had been investigating hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with him. The outline of those payments became public only after he was elected in 2016 and more details were revealed in sworn testimony as Trump served in the White House.
Trump has already denied the charges, has called his accusers liars and has threatened that there would be “potential death & destruction” if charges were filed against him in the case. He has said also that he wouldn’t quit the 2024 presidential race if indicted.
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The New York criminal case is the first to charge him criminally, but he faces legal jeopardy in several jurisdictions.
Two of his companies, Trump Corp. and the Trump Payroll Corp., were convicted in December of criminal tax fraud. The companies were fined a combined $1.6 million.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is considering a range of potential charges, including election fraud, false statements and racketeering.
A federal special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating Trump’s role in interfering with the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden and the unauthorized retention of classified documents at his Florida estate.
Matt Dallek, a presidential historian, said the indictment marks an inflection point in American democracy, and will test the system of equal justice under the law as perhaps no other case in recent history.
“The indictment is good news for democracy, but it also reflects the turmoil and the challenges that Trump has posed to our system of governance, so it cuts both ways,” Dallek said. “It’s significant because he is the first president or former President to be indicted. But it also raises the fundamental question of can he get a fair trial? And can the trial proceed without significant outbreaks of violence? And that’s going to be a test for the rule of law in America and the stability of the two-party political system.”
– Josh Meyer