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Trump set to surrender within days after indictment

Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a historic reckoning after years of investigations and a jolt to his bid to retake the White House.

April 1, 2023
By Karen Freifeld, Luc Cohen and Tyler Clifford
1 April 2023

Donald Trump, the ex-president and frontrunner to be Republican nominee in 2024, is set to face a mug shot, finger-printing and a court appearance next week after being indicted over a probe into hush money paid to a porn star in a historic US first.

The possible spectacle of Trump’s appearance in Manhattan before a judge with media camped outside could further divide the world’s most powerful country.

The specific charges against Trump are not yet known, but CNN on Thursday reported Trump faced more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

Trump, 76, said he was “completely innocent” and accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the Democrat who led the investigation, of trying to hurt his electoral chances.

“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a statement.

Shortly after, Trump appealed to supporters to provide money for a legal defence.

He has raised more than $US2 million ($A3 million) since March 18, according to his campaign, and called for people to protest.

A small number of supporters rallied at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida on Thursday, waving flags along the highway, while a critic of the former president held a sign near the New York DA’s office reading: “Lock him up and throw away the key”.

Authorities bolstered security around the Manhattan courthouse after Trump earlier this month called for nationwide protests, recalling his charged rhetoric before the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

Neither the White House nor President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is widely expected to seek re-election in a possible rematch against Trump, commented on Thursday.

But the party’s top senator, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, called Trump’s critics and supporters “to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law”.

The Manhattan investigation is just one of several legal challenges concerning Trump.

Trump also faces a separate criminal probe into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, and two investigations by a special counsel including over his handling of classified documents after leaving office.

The Manhattan charges will likely be unsealed by a judge in the coming days and Trump will have to travel there for fingerprinting and other processing at that point. He is expected to appear before a judge next week.

Trump’s lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said they would “vigorously fight” the charges.

Trump received support from a number of his potential challengers for the Republican nomination on Thursday including Florida Governor Ron Desantis and former vice-president Mike Pence.

“This will only further serve to divide our country,” Pence said.

While president between 2017 and 2021, Trump regularly butted heads and used fiery rhetoric with traditional American allies over matters such as trade and defence spending. He has been critical of US support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Trump has escaped legal peril numerous times.

In the White House, he weathered two attempts by Congress to remove him from office, over the US Capitol assault by supporters and probe into his campaign’s contacts with Russia in 2016.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office successfully prosecuted Trump’s business on tax fraud charges last year, leading to a $US1.61 million penalty.

Legal experts say Bragg is expected to argue Trump falsified business records to cover up another crime, such as violating federal campaign finance law, which makes it a felony.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received money in exchange for silence about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.

The former president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has said he co-ordinated with Trump on the payments to Daniels and to a second woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also said she had a sexual relationship with him.

Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.

Trump in 2018 initially disputed knowing anything about the payment to Daniels. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment, which he called a “simple private transaction”.

Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation in 2018 and served more than a year in prison.

Cohen said he stood by his testimony and the evidence he provided to prosecutors.

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