‘A huge deal for accountability’: New York Grand Jury votes to indict Donald Trump

"Donald Trump has spent his entire political career dodging accountability for his wanton disregard for the law. It is finally catching up to him."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict former U.S. President Donald Trump for his role in a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, The New York Timesreported Thursday, citing five people with knowledge of the matter.

The grand jury’s move makes Trump the first ex-president to face criminal charges—and comes as the 76-year-old is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. An indictment or even conviction in the case would not prevent him from running.

After other outlets also confirmed the historic vote, a spokesperson for District Attorney Alvin Bragg said that “this evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s office for his arraignment on a [New York] Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”

Citing two unnamed sources familiar with the case, CNNreported that Trump faces over 30 counts related to business fraud.

“Donald Trump has spent his entire political career dodging accountability for his wanton disregard for the law. It is finally catching up to him.”

In a phone call with ABC News producer John Santucci, Trump said this is an “attack on our country” and “political persecution,” adding that “they are trying to impact an election.” The twice-impeached former president made similar remarks in a lengthy statement.

Asked by Santucci asked if he will turn himself in, Trump responded, “You take care, John,” and hung up. Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told NBC News that his client is expected to surrender to the DA’s office early next week.

Trump supporters expressed outrage over the development—as did Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to also run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination but said Thursday that his state “will not assist in an extradition request.”

Despite warnings that this case “is the first to result in an indictment, though arguably the toughest to win,” as Mark Joseph Stern wrote for Slate, critics of Trump still welcomed the news as a long-awaited step toward accountability.

“We know of literally dozens of credible allegations of crimes committed by Donald Trump as president or running for it, with no charges filed. Until now,” tweeted Noah Bookbinder, president of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “We can’t yet evaluate these charges, but make no mistake, this is a huge deal for accountability.”

“Donald Trump has spent his entire political career dodging accountability for his wanton disregard for the law. It is finally catching up to him,” Bookbinder added. “The charges in New York are the first ever brought against him, but they will not be the last.”

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) similarly said “this is just one of many criminal acts for which Donald Trump is being investigated. Make no mistake: the fact that one of the most powerful people in the world was investigated impartially and indicted is testament to the fact that we still live in a nation of laws. And no one is above the law.”

Daniels has alleged that she had an extramarital sexual affair with Trump, which he denies. Daniels’ attorney, Clark Brewster, said that “the indictment of Donald Trump is no cause for joy. The hard work and conscientiousness of the grand jurors must be respected. Now let truth and justice prevail. No one is above the law.”

Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, who made a $130,000 payment to Daniels, said Thursday that “accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided” to the district attorney.

Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, pointed to Cohen’s prison time on Thursday.

“No American is above the law, including former presidents, and Donald Trump will get his day in court,” said Scherb. “Donald Trump and his co-conspirators clearly appeared to have broken the law and his attorney at the time has already served time in federal prison for charges related to the $130,000 hush money payout. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is right to hold the former president to the same standard as every other American.”

John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People, said that “Donald Trump must face the rule of law for all of the crimes he has committed, and this indictment by the Manhattan grand jury is an important first step.” Free Speech for People has argued that Trump and congressional Republicans who provoked and supported the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol should be ineligible to serve, citing the section of the 14th Amendment that bars from federal office anyone who has taken an oath to support the Constitution then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

Urging secretaries of state and chief election officials across the country to “do their job,” Bonifaz said that “the insurrectionist disqualification clause of the 14th Amendment makes clear that Trump is disqualified from holding any future public office based on his role in inciting and mobilizing the January 6th insurrection.”

“No prior indictment or conviction is required in order to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Trump,” he added. “To protect our republic, we must uphold this critical constitutional provision at this moment in history.”

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