Donald Trump has become the first former president of the United States to be indicted, making for a truly unprecedented time in the country.
A grand jury in Manhattan voted to indict Mr Trump on Thursday (local time), with the indictment filed but under seal. Details have not yet been disclosed.
The legal action against Mr Trump comes after the grand jury looked into alleged hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during his successful 2016 campaign for president.
Mr Trump has claimed he is innocent and said the indictment was: “Political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.
“I believe this witch hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,” the former president said.
“The American people realise exactly what the radical left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our movement, and our party – united and strong – will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Republicans have decried the indictment, and on the other side of the aisle Democrats are saying this is merely the former president being held accountable for his “unlawful” conduct.
What is an indictment and what happens now?
An indictment is essentially a formal document that details the alleged charge or charges against the accused. Mr Trump faces over 30 counts related to business fraud, CNN reported.
While the contents of the indictment remain under seal, it is expected details will be made public in the coming days.
It is expected that the former president will be fingerprinted and photographed and there is a chance he might even be handcuffed, the latter being standard practice for those facing felony charges, The New York Times reported.
However, Mr Trump could voluntarily turn himself in to avoid being arrested in public, the Washington Post noted. A Trump adviser told the publication it is expected he will surrender next Tuesday. However, his lawyer Susan Necheles said she did not know if he would.
If the former president were to be defiant and refuse to surrender, prosecutors would need to ask permission from officials in Florida and seek permission for him to be extradited to New York.
Previously, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has said the state would “not assist in an extradition request”, The New York Times reported.
Mr Trump will then front court and enter a plea.
The indictment out of New York is one of many legal woes the 2024 presidential hopeful is currently facing.
Can Trump still run for president?
The charges could be lessened or dropped entirely, or he could be acquitted.
Even if he is convicted of a crime, Mr Trump can still run for the presidency. There are only three things a potential presidential candidate needs to meet to be eligible to run.
The US Constitution requires a candidate to be at least 35 years old, a “natural born citizen” and resident of the US for at least 14 years, CNN reported.
However, if he is convicted of a felony in New York, he will not be allowed to vote in Florida, where he currently resides.
Stormy Daniels and her Trump connection
Long before Mr Trump was president, he was a businessman and reality TV star. In 2006, a year after he married his third wife, Melania, he met Ms Daniels at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.
Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims the two had a sexual encounter that same year. She has said that, at his invitation, the two dined at his hotel suite, where he showed her a magazine with himself on the cover, according to Reuters.
In 2018, Ms Daniels told CBS’s 60 Minutes that she said that someone should “spank” Mr Trump with the magazine.
“So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little – you know had underwear on and stuff – and I just gave him a couple swats,” Ms Daniels said.
The two then spoke and he asked if she would appear on his show, Celebrity Apprentice.
“He was like, ‘Wow, you – you are special. You remind me of my daughter.’ You know, he was like, ‘You’re smart and beautiful, and a woman to be reckoned with, and I like you. I like you,’” Ms Daniels said.
After returning from the bathroom, Mr Trump was sitting on the edge of the bed. Speaking to 60 Minutes, she recalled feeling as though she “had it coming” for going up to his room.
The two then had consensual sex. A year later, Mr Trump called her and the two met in Los Angeles to discuss her potentially appearing on his show.
She claims he wanted to have sex with her again, but she declined and a month later he told her she would not be appearing on Celebrity Apprentice.
Mr Trump denies the encounter ever happened.
The hush money
Days out from the 2016 US election, in which Mr Trump would emerge as the president-elect, Ms Daniels received $US130,000 ($AUD183,700) in exchange for not discussing her encounter with him.
Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison in Federal Court in New York for orchestrating hush payments to Ms Daniels and another woman.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal said she had an affair that went for months with Mr Trump before he took office.
Following Mr Trump’s indictment, Mr Cohen said this was just the beginning.
“Today’s indictment is not the end of this chapter, but rather, just the beginning,” he said.
“Accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided.”
What has Trump said?
In addition to the statement where he accused Democrats of lying and cheating in an effort to “get” him, Mr Trump is also leveraging the indictment to raise funds.
Apparently, just moments after the indictment was confirmed, an email to his supporters was sent out. It starts off by saying he ran for president as a “complete political outsider” and that right now, it was the “darkest chapter of American history”.
“With your support, we will write the next great chapter of American history – and 2024 will forever go down as the year we saved our Republic. WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the email says, according to CNN.
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