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INDICTED: Donald Trump Faces Criminal Charges For Hush Money To Porn Star

Donald Trump was indicted for his role in paying hush-money to a porn star on the eve of the 2016 election, marking the first time in American history that a former president has faced criminal charges.

The grand jury returned the indictment of Mr. Trump after a vote on Thursday, kicking off a process in which the former president is expected to come to New York to face the charges. The indictment, sought by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, isn’t public.

“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender,” a Bragg spokeswoman said.

In New York, judges routinely keep charges under wraps until defendants make their initial appearance in court. Mr. Trump is likely to surrender and appear for his arraignment on Tuesday, said Susan Necheles, one of his lawyers.

Ms. Necheles and fellow Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said, “He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in Court.”

Mr. Trump said that Democrats had “done the unthinkable—indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference.”

“Weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before,” he said.

The case brought by Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, is far from a sure bet. Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., and federal prosecutors each passed on charging Mr. Trump in a stand-alone case related to the hush money. If the case goes to trial, a conviction would almost certainly require a jury to credit the testimony of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who has faced his own legal troubles and pleaded guilty to an array of federal felonies in 2018. Among them was a campaign-finance offense for the porn-star payment, as well as charges of lying to a bank and to Congress.

Mr. Cohen says Mr. Trump directed him to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 election in exchange for her keeping quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has denied any affair with Ms. Daniels and said he followed Mr. Cohen’s advice as his lawyer.

The state case in New York is unlikely to have any legal bearing on Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy, even if he is ultimately convicted. The U.S. Constitution imposes no requirement that candidates for the highest office have a clean record, and there is a legal consensus that states are barred from imposing their own restrictions on presidential candidates, said Derek Muller, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law.

The indictment could cut different ways politically for Mr. Trump, 76 years old, who survived two impeachments as president. He has shown resilience among his supporters amid numerous legal issues and controversies and has already used the threat of prosecution as a rallying point to raise campaign funds and argue that he is being charged unfairly for political reasons. At the same time, Mr. Trump’s standing has eroded among some Republicans, numerous polls have shown, and the case could make some voters more likely to support another candidate.

CREDIT: Wall Street Journal

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