Donald Trump to be charged over hush money payment to porn star: What’s the case all about?


Donald Trump has made history. Perhaps not in the way he would have liked to. On Thursday, he became the first United States president to be indicted in a criminal case. A Manhattan grand jury had voted to indict him for his role in a five-year-old scandal: the $130,000 (Rs 1.06 crore) hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump released a statement shortly after the news of the indictment broke, calling it a ‘witch hunt’ and saying it was a move by the Democrats to interfere with his 2024 bid for president. “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump wrote in his statement. “The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable — indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference.”

According to Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina, the former US president is expected to surrender to Manhattan authorities next week. Moreover, he would be arraigned as soon as Tuesday, reported ABC News.

But what exactly is the case all about? Still confused why Trump was indicted? Read on to understand the matter better.

When Trump and Stormy Daniels met

The seeds of Donald Trump’s indictment by the Manhattan district attorney’s office were planted 17 years ago, at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada, where he met famous porn star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) in July 2006.

According to Daniels, Trump — who was then the star of the reality show The Apprentice — invited her to his hotel room dinner. As they chatted, he told her he could make her a guest on his show, and the evening turned intimate. Trump denies that any of that occurred.

She adds that they met on two more occasions, but never got intimate and then she eventually stopped taking his calls.

In 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, Daniels’ agent approached media outlets, including The National Enquirer, to sell her story. At first, there were no takers for her story.

Trump’s indictment stems over payments his lawyer made to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, about an alleged affair between the two. File image/Reuters

Then a tape released in which Trump, unwittingly on a live microphone, was recorded describing in lewd terms how he groped women. Realising that claims of him being unfaithful to his wife would derail his chances of becoming president, Trump’s then lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell company he had set up. He was then reimbursed by Trump, whose company logged the reimbursements as legal expenses.

According to federal prosecutors who filed criminal charges against Cohen in connection with the payments in 2018, Trump’s company “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for the Daniels payment to cover tax payments.

Cohen said Trump directed him to arrange the Daniels payment. Federal prosecutors say the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. They argued that since this money was spent to help Trump win the election, it should have been disclosed as campaign spending and subject to legal limits on donations.

Charges against Trump

The indictment has not yet been unsealed, so it’s not totally clear. However, sources close to the case were quoted as telling CNN that Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

The news outlet further reported that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office had contacted Trump’s lawyers to “coordinate his surrender”.

Trump and other reactions

The former US president has denied any wrongdoing and even refutes knowing Stormy Daniels. His sons — Eric and Donald Trump Jr — both reacted after the indictment, calling it ‘an opportunistic targeting of a political opponent’.

Predictably, top Republican leaders and some of the party’s most loyal Trump allies jumped to his defence after the indictment.

Former US vice president Mike Pence, who has been critical of his former political partner, said that the “decision today is a great disservice to the country and the idea that for the first time in American history a former president would be indicted on a campaign finance issue to me, it just smacks of political prosecution”.

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Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement said: “Mr Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law. There should be no outside political influence, intimidation or interference in the case. I encourage both Mr Trump’s critics and supporters to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law.”

And what about Stormy Daniels, who has been at the centre of this storm. Following the indictment, she tweeted a two-word response — “Thank you”.

Trump followers stand in support after the news that he has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury near Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. AP

What comes next

Trump will be arraigned and the dates for the case will be set. According to reports, this will happen next week.

CBS News’ legal analyst Rikki Klieman said that Trump will experience the usual steps like fingerprinting, being photographed for a mugshot, and appearing in court, but “not the way it usually happens.”

“Donald Trump will also be surrendering by arrangement with the district attorney's office, and he will be surrounded by his Secret Service agents, as he always is, because he’s entitled to that protection as a former president,” Klieman said.

“Trump will then be processed. He will have a mugshot. He will get a booking number. He will give fingerprints... and ultimately whether or not he will be handcuffed is discretionary for the police, in this case the NYPD,” Klieman added. “If he is with Secret Service people, there is no need to handcuff him to bring him into the courtroom to be arraigned.”

Preparations are being put in place for the next steps — security barriers have already been set up around the Manhattan courthouse and the district attorney's office for more than a week.

Additionally, police officials have been put on alert in the event of any protests.

An anti-Trump protester holds signs outside Manhattan Criminal Court after former US president Donald Trump's indictment by a Manhattan grand jury. Reuters

And the trial begins…

A trial in the case would be more than a year away, meaning it would possibly take place in 2024 — the presidential election year.

Analysts say that Trump will use the matter for political leverage and boost his support among his loyalists. The former president is expected to target Alvin Bragg and President Joe Biden — which may help him in the elections.

With inputs from agencies

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Donald Trump to be charged over hush money payment to porn star: What’s the case all about?
Donald Trump to be charged over hush money payment to porn star: What’s the case all about?
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