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Trump indicted by grand jury in Stormy Daniels hush money scheme

A New York grand jury made Donald Trump the first former president indicted in U.S. history.

What to know

70d ago / 3:43 AM UTC

Beschloss: 'We will be waking up in a different country'

70d ago / 3:40 AM UTC

Mary Trump discusses the 'surreal' indictment of her uncle

70d ago / 3:38 AM UTC

Tens of people reportedly rally to Trump’s support

The New York Times is reporting that “about 20 Trump supporters gathered just outside Mar-A-Lago in Florida in a show of solidarity” with the indicted former president:

When asked why she made the trek to Palm Beach, Loxahatchee resident Georgia McGeerey said she had come to “fight for America.”

Lake Worth resident Nancy Sparks, 83, said the indictment was set off by Trump’s presidential run. “They said they would get him and they’re trying. It’s going to backfire and the Democrats are going to wish they didn’t mess with him,” she said.

What an outpouring of rage, a true sign of the fury that is yet to come.

Not to make light of the potential security threats we could see as the case moves to trial, but by tomorrow morning, we shouldn’t be surprised should we see Trump repeating past behavior, posting that there were hundreds of people outside his gates demanding Bragg’s resignation.

70d ago / 3:36 AM UTC

Republican voters react to Trump indictment

Trump is trying to currently raise money for his campaign because of this. And as I’ve been talking to some Republican voters, it seems to be working. There are people I’ve been talking to, voters in Pennsylvania for example, telling me that they are coming to the former president’s defense right now, they do feel like this is unfair. 

The same voters, by the way, just a few months ago also told me that they were sick and tired of some of the drama that he brought to the table.”

70d ago / 3:28 AM UTC

Don’t let Trump’s supporters convince you that he’s popular

Data journalism website FiveThirtyEight shows seven of eight Donald Trump favorability polls conducted this month suggest the former president is underwater, meaning more Americans dislike him than like him.

Two March 11-14 polls sponsored by The Economist (one surveyed “adults” and the other surveyed “registered voters”) find that the percentage of those who disapprove of Trump is 8 points higher than the percentage of those who approve of him. A March 9-13 Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters finds a 22-point gap, with 58% having an unfavorable opinion of Trump and only 36% having a favorable view. Four other polls say Trump is 11 to 17 points underwater.

Remarkably, Rasmussen Reports, in a March 9-13 poll of “likely voters” finds Trump to be 8 points above water! That’s not going to do anything to silence the criticism that Rasmussen is biased toward Trump and Republicans. It will only serve as a reminder that Rasmussen is Trump’s favorite pollster. But if we treat Rasmussen like the outlier it deserves to be, what we’re left with is ample evidence that most Americans don’t like the former president. Nothing that Bragg does or doesn’t do is likely to change that dynamic.

70d ago / 3:21 AM UTC

Rep. Swalwell: “Kevin McCarthy could get someone killed”

Lawrence O'Donnell, speaking to Rep. Eric Swalwell tonight on "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," said that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is "lying already" by "issuing a tweet threat to Alvin Bragg saying that he and the Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to hold the Manhattan district attorney to account."

Of course," O'Donnell said, "he has absolutely no power to do that."

Swalwell's response: "Kevin McCarthy could get someone killed with his rhetoric. He’s the Speaker of the House. He is second in line to the presidency. And he is taking a wrecking ball to the rule of law, and he is going to inspire and incite somebody to take up violence against law enforcement or somebody involved in this case."

70d ago / 3:16 AM UTC

Bragg shouldn't trust Trump to stay in New York

If I were Alvin Bragg, I’d ask the judge presiding over Trump’s initial appearance next week to order the former president to stay put in New York. Judges in counties around the country do this kind of thing every day. 

In this case, Trump may well relish the global spotlight that will shine down on him during his arraignment. But he might later decide that things aren’t going his way, and that he’s better off staying in Florida than returning for subsequent court appearances. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is already on record refusing to cooperate with New York extradition efforts. And Trump could try to take him up on that anytime after his initial appearance. In fact, if I were in Bragg’s shoes, I’d ask the judge to seize Trump’s passport as well.

70d ago / 3:09 AM UTC

Comey's summation of the day

70d ago / 3:05 AM UTC

Pence defends Trump because old habits die hard

Former Vice President Mike Pence sat down with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tonight and had the chance to put some distance between himself and his former boss. And despite seemingly preparing to run to succeed Trump in the White House in 2024, he instead opted to stick to the same script he’s been reading from since 2016.

A few things to note there. First, Pence saying the charges are based on a “campaign finance” issue is surprising, given that we still don’t know what’s in the indictment. Second, it doesn’t seem that hard to say “while I believe the charges are invalid, if a jury votes to convict as per our legal system, then he should not continue to run for office.” It would be a statement of support for the rule of law, still show primary voters that you think Trump is innocent, and help clear a lane for Pence 2024 to get off the ground should a conviction actually happen.

Instead, he opts to see how things shake out before making a call on whether to do something that benefits him over Trump, which is the most Mike Pence of things.

70d ago / 3:00 AM UTC

This is not a ticky-tack matter

If, in fact, Trump's indictment is related to involvement in the hush money payment that Michael Cohen made to Stormy Daniels, that would not be any mere paperwork crime.

Cohen and others have explained that the payment was made in order to affect a presidential election. We’re not talking about Trump failing to properly file insignificant paperwork; we’re talking about him allegedly trying to silence people to win an election, and using illegal means to do so.

70d ago / 2:47 AM UTC

Bragg’s case against Trump does not have the gravitas of an attempted insurrection

Although Trump has been indicted for violating New York statue, he faces even more serious potential charges in Georgia, where a Fulton County grand jury is investigating him for solicitation of election fraud, which is a felony in Georgia.  

Of course, we do not yet know if the Fulton County grand jury will vote to indict Trump. 

Meanwhile, special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed only in November, is expected to be investigating Trump for sedition, among other crimes.  

It is unfortunate that the Justice Department fell behind the Manhattan District Attorney in its criminal investigation of Trump, because the federal sedition charge is by far the most serious against Trump and the only crime that automatically disqualifies him from public office. While serious, Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump does not have the gravitas of an attempted insurrection.

71d ago / 2:36 AM UTC

Judge from Trump Org trial to preside over Trump's arraignment

71d ago / 2:33 AM UTC

U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn: 'I'm even more angry'

The desire for Trump to face the music for something is not new. After all, his list of mistakes, indiscretions and alleged crimes is long. So it’s understandable that many Democrats are feeling celebratory given Bragg’s indictment — whatever it may entail. But not everyone shares those sentiments:

Harry Dunn, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 made it clear Thursday that he’s not pleased. “I’m not excited,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m even more angry. The hell with that hush money. He incited an insurrection and had his goons attack me and my coworkers.”

It’s obvious why some people want Trump to be held accountable for something, no matter how small. Because he never appears to be held accountable for anything. But Dunn’s tweet is a reminder that history may remember him for far worse things than allegedly trying to buy an adult film star’s silence.

71d ago / 2:24 AM UTC

GOP’s favorite talking point is half dog whistle, half nonsense

Among the many talking points Republicans are already spouting before even seeing the charges behind the Trump indictment, one stands out: “Soros-backed.”

The former president, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, among others, all used the term to describe Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, implying that he’s merely carrying out the whims of billionaire donor and Holocaust survivor George Soros. 

In fact, Soros and Bragg have never met, nor did Soros ever donate to Bragg’s campaign. Their lone connection is a Soros donation to a progressive group that endorsed Bragg.

But there’s a deeper problem than political insularity or factual accuracy: As MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan pointed out last week, scaremongering about ties to George Soros isn’t just popular with right-wing politicians in America, it’s popular with the right worldwide, frequently as an antisemitic dog whistle. Conservatives will claim the term “Soros-backed” isn’t antisemitic, but it’s certainly popular with antisemites.

71d ago / 2:16 AM UTC

Stormy Daniels sips champagne as Trump indictment news develops

Stormy Daniels is openly celebrating Trump's indictment. She tweeted tonight that she's sipping champagne and watching orders for her merchandise surge as news about the indictment continues to develop.

71d ago / 2:09 AM UTC

Here's what the hard part is

Indicting politicians is totally normal. We do it all the time! And we can handle it. Unless, unless a particular politician seeks to make his indictment a catalyst for his supporters and his party rising up and declaring that the legal system is now over. That the legal system should not apply to him, and therefore it no longer applies at all.

That would be something different. That is not an inevitable consequence of a politician being indicted. That is what this former politician and candidate for office is trying to do for the first time. That’s the hard part. That’s the part that could break us as a country.

The indictment? Huh. It’s Thursday. The indictment is not what’s going to change our lives.

71d ago / 1:58 AM UTC

Senate Dems are fundraising off the indictment. I don’t love this look.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, sent an email to supporters tonight asking them to contribute “to keep Donald Trump’s allies and enablers out of power.”

And I gotta say, this is not a good look from where I’m sitting. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the strategy of striking while the iron is hot. A large portion of the Democratic base is, if not outright ecstatic, at least buoyed by tonight’s news and thus more willing than normal to open their wallets. And we know Republicans would be calling the indictment politically motivated no matter what. 

But given how nothing about Bragg charging Trump has anything to do with the Senate, I can’t say I love this move. It just feels … opportunistic.

71d ago / 1:49 AM UTC

Why Trump's reported claim about the Secret Service is BS

The Trump legal team is blaming the U.S. Secret Service for not being able to surrender their client tomorrow to the NYPD and Manhattan DA's office, according to a report in Politico tonight. I call BS.

Politico writes that the DA's office “requested that Trump surrender on Friday." Reportedly, Trump’s lawyers claimed the “U.S. Secret Service needed more time to prepare.” That sounds like nonsense. The USSS has had months to anticipate this indictment, and certainly has had over a week since their protectee went public with his indictment prediction.

As soon as Trump pronounced his anticipated indictment date, NYPD and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — which includes the USSS went on high alert and began extensive security and intelligence preparations. I don’t buy the Trump team’s story that the USSS is causing a delay here. What I do believe is that Trump will milk this time before he surrenders for his own benefit — including to incite his followers who may violently respond.

71d ago / 1:38 AM UTC

Donald Trump’s home court disadvantage

If Trump’s Manhattan indictment results in a trial, it may prove quite hard to find jurors who don’t already have a strong opinion of him. Ironically, and in this case unfortunately for Trump, people in New York (if we use the results of the 2020 presidential election as a measurement) don’t have a high opinion of this particular native son.

Joe Biden not only won New York City; he also won in every voting district in the borough of Manhattan and ended up with fully 86% of the borough’s vote. A CBS reporter quoted an attorney for Trump claiming he’ll likely get the trial moved out of Manhattan. If true, it wouldn’t be surprising. 

Of course, someoene who voted for Biden would not necessarily (if there ever a trial) vote to convict Trump. But you can count on Trump and his legal team making that argument. After all, he has long acted as if every person who shows him something less than adoration is deeply flawed.

71d ago / 1:29 AM UTC

Roger Stone isn’t buying DeSantis’ support for Trump

Not even the indictment of a former president is enough to put a kibosh on the feud between Team Trump and Ron DeSantis. Roger Stone, noted Trump confidant and pardon beneficiary, was none too impressed with the Florida governor’s statement of support tonight, according to NBC News:

“‘It is obvious to me that [the] Governor DeSantis statement saying that he would not assist in the extradition of President Trump to New York, is an attempt to recover from bungling the same question last week, Stone said in a text message.”

It is deeply funny to me that Stone doesn’t for a second consider DeSantis’ statement to be a truce in the currently one-sided primary fight between the governor and former president. Instead, he sees it as DeSantis bandwagoning and trying to gain points with the GOP base. Even funnier is that he’s right.

71d ago / 1:20 AM UTC

Spoiler: This might actually be boring

I do think there is one thing we need to be preparing for that we are maybe not prepared for. And that is what I think is the very high probability that this is going to be boring.

I’m not sure we’re prepared for that. I’m not sure either side ideologically is prepared for that. I don’t think the punditocracy is prepared for that. I don’t think you or I tonight are prepared for that.

71d ago / 1:07 AM UTC

What's happening in the White House right now

What they are conveying to everybody in the Cabinet to senior members of the team is “keep your head down and do not speak to this.” They’re going to be very quiet for as long as they can, in part because as a policy they don’t comment on ongoing criminal investigations, but also because they don’t want to feed into the politics of this.

And they know that, so their biggest challenge is almost going to be keeping everybody as quiet as possible.

71d ago / 12:52 AM UTC

Trump expected to be arraigned on Tuesday: attorney

Trump attorney Susan Necheles told NBC News that Trump is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday. The situation, however, remains fluid.

71d ago / 12:13 AM UTC

Surprise: Madison Cawthorn doesn’t understand Roman history

Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., posted a video reacting to Trump’s indictment and it is incredible how on brand it is. Cawthorn, who for reasons passing understanding is shirtless in said video, says that the charges against Trump “will lead us down the exact same path that Rome followed — this will lead us to a dictatorship.”

Now, as much as it pains me to say it, Cawthorn is maybe 33% right there. One of the reasons commonly given for why Julius Caesar marched on Rome in 49 BCE was that the Roman Senate was prepared to prosecute him for supposed crimes that had taken place a decade earlier. But where Cawthorn’s analogy completely breaks down is that Caesar is the one that became dictator here. If we take his comparison to its endpoint, he’s basically saying that Trump has no choice but to wage civil war against the Republic. 

And while I wouldn’t put that past him given his past support for insurrection, I’m more willing to chalk this instance up to him not knowing what he’s talking about.

71d ago / 12:08 AM UTC

How strong is the hush money case against Trump?

How strong is the hush money case against Trump? Without seeing the precise charges, it’s hard to know.

The speculation has long been that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s grand jury was considering a charge of falsifying business records. That, in turn, has prompted questions of whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony business records charge, as well as about how Bragg would prove Trump’s intent to defraud under either charge. Until we see the indictment, we’re still in speculative territory in terms of both the charges and the legal theory of the case that Bragg intends to pursue.

Read more from my analysis below.

71d ago / 12:02 AM UTC

Why this indictment is especially humiliating for Trump

As the Rev. Al Sharpton said on MSNBC moments ago:

This is a humiliating night for Trump. He’s gonna have to go in the same building that those five young men who were indicted and prosecuted for a rape they didn’t do, while Donald Trump took ads out calling for their execution. They were convicted and some of them went to jail for years. They will see Donald Trump, who bought ads against them, walk in the same building they were arraigned in and be arraigned sometime next week. You will reap what you sow.

71d ago / 11:50 PM UTC

Trump is about to find out what it's like to be out of control

Ari Melber on MSNBC moments ago:

Today is the first day of the rest of Donald Trump’s life. He is going to learn very quickly what it’s like to be out of control. To be on the other side of this process. To have his life and liberty in the control of other humans, a judge and a jury. And he is legally presumed innocent and he’s entitled to a fair jury trial by his peers, but he’s gonna learn real quick how different it’s going to be.

71d ago / 11:50 PM UTC

Keep an eye on what happens with Allen Weisselberg

I think it’s interesting to keep an eye on what is happening with Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. He has pled guilty, he is currently in Rikers, a very tough prison in New York.

There has been a lot of discussion in the last 24 hours that he no longer has his very eminent, reputable criminal defense lawyers representing him, and has switched lawyers to somebody who used to work in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. 

That has led to a lot of speculation as to whether he also will be charged or whether he has flipped. Whether he is actually a cooperating witness is potentially an additional piece of evidence in the arsenal that Alvin Bragg has. It's something that I think we’re going to learn a lot about in the next 24 hours.

71d ago / 11:40 PM UTC

It will only get uglier from this moment on

Joyce Vance on The Beat with Ari moments ago:

It will only get uglier from this moment on. Americans need to understand that Trump, as he so often did, will make an effort to manipulate people and to draw people to his side. 

He’ll say it’s unfair. He’ll say it’s a witch hunt and the Manhattan D.A.’s office won’t be able to respond because they will try their case where it should be tried, in the courtroom where they will present evidence and an argument to a jury. 

And it will be up to those jurors to stand in for all of us; for everyone in America to listen carefully to the evidence and to make a decision there, not based on Donald Trump’s empty rhetoric but on the evidence.

71d ago / 11:39 PM UTC

Keep this in mind about Michael Cohen's case as Trump rages

Not just was Michael Cohen indicted for the same facts and essentially the same crime, assuming this is the payment of hush money in violation of campaign finance laws and the covering up of those records illegally under New York law, it was the same facts.

Remember who indicted Michael Cohen: It was Donald Trump’s Justice Department. It wasn’t a local Democrat who ran for prosecutor. It was Bill Barr who indicted Michael Cohen on these facts. It’s so important to keep pointing that out. If this is a made up deal, then Donald Trump’s own Justice Department ignored it and went ahead and put Michael Cohen in prison.

71d ago / 11:35 PM UTC

Trump already fundraising off indictment. (Of course, he is.)

The Trump campaign is never one to miss an opportunity to make a buck or two. Already a fundraising email pegged to the indictment has hit supporters’ inboxes.

It’ll be interesting to see how much money this plea hauls in. Trump’s Truth Social claim earlier this month that he would be arrested reportedly pulled in $1.5 million in donations over three days. That’s not bad and could wind up putting him on par with the fundraising boost he got after the Mar-a-Lago search — but still short of the amount he was raking in in the days after the 2020 election.

Also, I’m curious to see how much of any bump will actually go towards helping “defend our movement” as the email says, given the previously lethargic pace of fundraising Trump’s seen since launching his 2024 re-election bid. Much of Trump’s 2020 haul was supposed to go towards a “legal defense fund” that fought Joe Biden’s victory in court. Spoilers: it didn’t — and Trump could still potentially face federal charges over that deception.

71d ago / 11:34 PM UTC

Law enforcement's historic stress test

Our nation’s law enforcement is about to undergo a stress test — not unlike what the Federal Reserve does to banks to see if they can handle instability in the markets. This test involves potential instability in our political, legal and rule-of-law systems. Never before has a former president been indicted, and never before have we indicted a former president who has previously, and successfully, incited a violent insurrection that led to 1,000 people being arrested, and multiple convictions for seditious conspiracy.  

The FBI, DHS, and police across the country will be monitoring any plans for violence by extremist groups. But they will also be watching how Donald J. Trump and his GOP cohorts use rhetoric capable of inciting violence.  

So far, there are already some warning signs. Trump has called this indictment “political persecution.” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise tweeted the Trump indictment was a “sham” and an example of “Democrats weaponizing government.”

The FBI was not given any new tools for its domestic terror tool kit after Jan. 6, 2021, yet it must ferret out and prevent violence every day. Violent extremists only have to get “lucky” once.

71d ago / 11:33 PM UTC

Two White House hopefuls rush to Trump’s defense

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (who has not officially declared, but is effectively running) tweeted a statement describing the indictment as “un-American” and “the weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.” He also promised that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request” if Donald Trump refuses to head to New York. 

And Real Clear News reporter Philip Melanchthon Wegmann says that former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign pointed him to her interview with Fox News last week as a comment on the indictment. In that interview, in anticipation of a possible indictment, the 2024 hopeful said: “From everything I’ve seen from this New York district attorney is that this would be something he’d be doing for political points. And I think what we know is that when you get into political prosecutions like this, it’s more about revenge than it is about justice. I think the country would be better off talking about things the American public cares about.”

It speaks to the GOP consensus on authoritarian lawlessness that Trump's two top competitors think it is advantageous to downplay criminal charges against the top guy in the race.

71d ago / 11:31 PM UTC

What if Trump doesn't show up for processing?

Trump’s lawyer claims that his client will show up in Manhattan for processing next week. But what if Trump doesn’t show?

It wouldn’t be the first time Trump didn’t take legal advice or even allegedly lied to his lawyers. If Trump decides to hunker down at Mar-a-Lago and not travel to New York for arraignment, the Manhattan DA would have to initiate an extradition process to get Trump out of Florida. 

The Florida extradition statute is not cut and dry. It requires the requesting state to discuss whether the person they charged committed the crime in the requesting state, and show whether the defendant has fled that state and come to Florida for the purpose of evading arrest. A barricaded Trump could also further incite his MAGA crowd to rise up violently against the Manhattan DA or his office.

And, the decision maker to approve an extradition request would be Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, who has already tweeted: “Florida will not assist in an extradition request.”

Law enforcement must prepare for the possibility of a protracted security risk posed by a defiant Trump.

71d ago / 11:24 PM UTC

Trump’s framing of indictment as 'election interference' is wrong — and dangerous

In a statement tonight, Trump reiterated many of the same stock, reactive phrases many Americans recite by heart: “Radical-Left Democrats.” “Witch-Hunt.” “Never before.” And even “funded by George Soros.”

But there’s a fairly new element to his Truth Social diatribes, and that’s his framing of the criminal investigations of him, and now this indictment specifically, as “Election Interference.” 

Trump’s politics have always been centered on grievances, but none more so than charges of cheating by his dirty, dogged political opponents who will stop at nothing to get him. Yet at the same time, in recent weeks, Trump has quietly turned a corner on his dominant election fraud narrative, now urging the GOP to embrace absentee and early voting and even ballot harvesting “because you have to do it.” That’s a tacit admission that the methods he once decried as blatant fraud are, in fact, not only necessary but also lawful. 

Put another way, Trump understands Republicans have to use these methods to win elections — but giving up the theme that voting by mail is itself cheating leaves Trump without an election fraud narrative to beat and repeat through the 2024 election. 

Enter Alvin Bragg, the first Black district attorney on the island Trump once ruled in glitz and gilt–and following the noisy resignations of two leaders in his office, frustrated that Bragg was not yet willing to bring charges last year, an unexpected source of legal trouble for the former president. And suddenly, Trump had both a new foil and a new variant on Democrats’ purported “election interference” efforts: a purportedly out-of-control prosecutor of color, allegedly backed by a Jewish billionaire, who had the audacity to endanger Trump’s future political prospects by investigating his misdeeds.

Trump is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But are the existence of charges predicated on facts even Trump concedes per se “election interference”? Not remotely — and not any more than the voting-by-mail that is standard practice throughout the country and now touted by Trump himself.

71d ago / 11:23 PM UTC

Remember, we don’t know what the indictment will say 

We’re all focused on the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, but it is possible the indictment includes the other big investigation by the New York District Attorney’s Office. The New York DA’s office, like the New York Attorney General’s Office, was investigating whether former President Trump and the Trump Organization committed financial crimes. Attorney General Letitia James has already sued Trump, members of his family and the Trump organization for lying about the value of numerous properties in order to pay lower taxes, and get better loans. It is possible that we could see criminal charges related to those actions as well. 

71d ago / 11:22 PM UTC

Trump’s indictment is more Western Europe than ‘third world’

Eric Trump said earlier tonight that Bragg’s indictment of his father is “third world prosecutorial misconduct.” That’s wrong on multiple levels, not least because holding current and former leaders accountable is a basic function of any democratic state. See: the many, many trials of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Burlesconi

I’m reminded of an article I wrote in March 2021, soon after former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had been convicted on corruption charges:

“The mundanity of the acts that threaten to bring down men like Sarkozy, [Israel Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Trump are fascinating. Netanyahu wanted more positive media coverage; Sarkozy wanted information about a scandal that he was later cleared of; Trump remains an unindicted co-conspirator in a case involving hush money paid to a porn star. These are men who have enormous reach and influence, who, in some cases, have been accused of way more consequential misdeeds.”

As I argued then, and as in Trump’s case today, there were “no signs that Sarkozy’s or Netanyahu’s legal troubles are hit jobs from an opposing political party seeking vengeance, like the charges against Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine in 2011 or those facing Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar after a military coup.” Instead, today’s indictment is an example of the system working, no matter what office the person under investigation once held.

71d ago / 11:20 PM UTC

Manhattan DA breaks silence on Trump indictment

A spokesperson for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg confirmed the Trump indictment in a statement tonight, noting that an arraignment date has not yet been selected:

“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”

71d ago / 11:15 PM UTC

A criminal indictment should be a political liability — even for Trump

Trump has now achieved another first. In the short-term, this historic indictment could help him politically. We know that he is still popular with his MAGA base. And in fact, he has been furiously fundraising off of the impending indictment. 

But in the mid- and long-term, this charge could prove to be politically problematic. If Trump does become the Republican Party’s 2024 nominee, he will need to appeal to independents and moderates. It is entirely likely that these voters will believe that an indicted Trump brings too much baggage.

Let’s hope that facing criminal indictment is still a political liability. 

71d ago / 11:08 PM UTC

Why it’s significant that a Black lawyer is charging Trump

Political science professor Hakeem Jefferson makes an important point here about the significance of a Black prosecutor — in fact, Manhattan’s first Black district attorney — carrying out this historic indictment. 

“As I see it, this willingness to hold even a former pres to account aligns w/values I see expressed by Black respondents: beliefs in order, rules, & fundamental fairness,” Jeffries wrote on Twitter. 

That’s not an overstatement. In the past, I’ve written for The ReidOut Blog about efforts throughout history to undermine the legitimacy of Black law practitioners, and the Black lawyers who’ve chosen to stay in the field. Of course, this history has taken on added relevance with Trump’s baseless allegations that the Black prosecutors investigating him are racist. Those claims from Trump prompted the National Black Prosecutors Association to issue an exclusive statement to The ReidOut Blog, calling the allegations “deplorable.”

71d ago / 11:08 PM UTC

Maya Wiley: "Let's hope that the former president starts to act like a citizen of this country"

"What we do know: There is no district attorney, including Alvin Bragg, who is bringing the first indictment ever against a former U.S. president and it’s not FELONY," Maya Wiley said on The Beat with Ari Melber moments ago. "That matters."

She continued: "All of us should take a deep breath and recognize the solemness of this moment and hope that the former president starts to act like a citizen of this country, which is to act with decorum and to take this process seriously."

71d ago / 11:04 PM UTC

Trump expected to surrender next week, his attorney says

Next week is shaping up to be quite a week.

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told NBC News on Thursday that Trump is expected to surrender to the Manhattan DA’s office early next week.

Sources told NBC News that Trump's arraignment is expected to take place next week and that his legal team has been in touch with prosecutors.

As Jordan Rubin wrote for Deadline: Legal Blog earlier this month, the arraignment is where the formal charges will be revealed to the public.

71d ago / 10:59 PM UTC

'I believe that Donald, right now, is petrified'

Earlier this hour, Ari Melber asked grand jury star witness Michael Cohen whether he thought Trump was prepared for the indictment booking process, which he likely faces next week.

"I believe that Donald, right now, is petrified," Cohen responded. "This is one of his biggest fears, that he would be called out for who and what he truly is. The mug shotting is going to be something that is going to really upset his fragile ego and at the end of the day, he’s gonna understand that no one is above the law."

71d ago / 10:56 PM UTC

Trump has been impeached twice. This is way different.

Trump previously made history by being the first president to be impeached twice, each time being acquitted by a Republican-controlled Senate. But an impeachment is at its core a political mechanism. Tonight’s indictment is a whole different beast, one that Trump has never faced.

Yes, impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution, but it operates outside of the justice system. The House is given free rein to decide the process for passing articles of impeachment, the equivalent of an indictment, listing the charges against the officeholder. Likewise, the Senate has the space to set up the corresponding impeachment trial as it sees fit, with little constitutional guidance to constrain them. That meant that while the evidence against him didn’t have to hit the same “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard as a criminal case, GOP senators had no real incentive to take whatever political hit that would come with a vote to convict.

That’s not the case here. While Trump has been sued in civil courts plenty of times, he’s never been criminally charged before. He may wind up longing for the days when the worst punishment that could be handed down was his removal from office and being barred from running again.

71d ago / 10:55 PM UTC

Don't lose sight of potential charges beyond the Stormy Daniels coverup

Joyce Vance on Deadline: White House moments ago:

We haven’t talked a lot about conspiracy charges in this regard; where more than one person is involved, conspiracy is often a companion charge and conspiracies run through the last act of a coverup. 

If there are additional charges, whether they involve election fraud, financial fraud, or Michael Cohen obtaining the loan that was used to pay Stormy Daniels, there’s an entire range of charges and also potentially other situations beyond the Stormy Daniels situation itself.

71d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

Trump's sons defend their father, attack Bragg

Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, not only accused Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg of not being political Thursday, he included a racialized critique when he suggested that Bragg, a Black man, is guilty of “third world prosecutorial misconduct.” He claimed that what Bragg has done in overseeing a grand jury that voted to indict his father amounts to “the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”

Brace yourself to hear many more thinly-veiled references to Bragg’s race. Also prepare to hear people defending Trump characterize this as a “campaign year.” The presidential election isn’t until next year. If it counts as a “campaign year,” it only does because Trump declared his candidacy so early. He declared it in November 2022, almost two years before the next presidential election, the earliest a non-incumbent ever has. 

Donald Jr. has now also followed suit:

71d ago / 10:49 PM UTC

What's likely next for Trump: Mug shot, fingerprinting and more

As my colleague Jordan Rubin wrote for Deadline: Legal Blog earlier this month, there are a few likely scenarios facing Trump now that he's been indicted by the Manhattan grand jury:

"A question is whether Trump would be would be 'perp walked' — that is, strutted before the flickering lights of press cameras while handcuffed and escorted by officers into the downtown courthouse.

"The answer to that question would be more of a policy choice by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg than a legal choice, but it could turn at least partly on Trump’s level of cooperation with his surrender. Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina told NBC News that the former president will follow normal procedures if it gets to the point of having to surrender to the DA’s office. ...

"Trump would, however, likely need to be fingerprinted and photographed at Bragg’s office in lower Manhattan, right next to the courthouse — that would be the infamous 'mug shot.'"

Read more about what to expect next below.

71d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

Here we go with the 'witch hunt' rhetoric — again

Trump’s attack on Bragg is predictable. Trump would use the witch hunt defense for any charge. The real test for these charges will come in court. 

71d ago / 10:40 PM UTC

Stormy Daniels tweets two words after Trump indictment

Stormy Daniels’ attorney Clark Brewster told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle that Daniels was horseback riding when the Trump indictment news broke.

Daniels tweeted two words in her initial response to the indictment:

71d ago / 10:39 PM UTC

Democratic Party calls out Republicans’ refusal to hold Trump accountable

NBC Senior White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell is reporting that the White House, quite wisely, is declining to respond to the news of Trump's indictment. President Biden's party, however, does have something to say: Namely, that it’s a shame that Republican Party hasn’t severed its ties with Trump.

“It remains obvious,” the DNC said in a statement, “the Republican Party remains firmly in the hold of Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans. We will continue to hold Trump and all Republican candidates accountable for the extreme MAGA agenda that includes banning abortion, cutting Social Security and Medicare, and undermining fee and fair elections.”

71d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

Trump’s arraignment could go one of two ways

The liberal fantasy of seeing Trump in handcuffs may or may not be coming to fruition in the next few days, with a lot of that riding on what the former president himself decides alongside his lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. On the one hand, the Secret Service would probably prefer a quiet scenario in which Trump walks himself into the DA’s office, where he’s taken into custody and fingerprinted. While the possibility of a “virtual arraignment” had been floated, given the security concerns around Trump turning himself in, but Fox News reported previously that Bragg’s office had shut down that option.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported last week that Trump had told people in his orbit that he wanted to be handcuffed, to make the arraignment as much of a “spectacle” as possible. Doing so would potentially “project defiance in the face of what he sees as an unfair prosecution and that it would galvanize his base for his 2024 presidential campaign,” but even the people The Guardian cited weren’t sure though whether Trump was serious or blustering. (My guess is the latter, given his reported anxiety around being arrested.)

Either way, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies are already working to secure the Manhattan courthouse where he would present himself.

71d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

Remember, this is not the most serious thing Trump is being investigated for

Andrew Weissmann on Deadline White House moments ago:

I think that we will see at least one, if not more, felony charges against the former president.  

I do want to say that it is really important to remember that one, we are likely to see other charges in other jurisdictions. Remember this, by all accounts this is not the most serious thing that is under investigation and I think it actually can assist other DAs and federal prosecutors in taking the bold step that they need to, to vindicate the rule of law.

71d ago / 10:34 PM UTC

Trump rages over indictment, recycling same old talking points

In responding to the indictment, Trump employed several baseless talking points he's been pushing over the last few weeks in an attempt to undermine DA Bragg's investigation

“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done," Trump said in a statement Thursday. "The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but 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. Ever."

He's right that this is a historic moment. But his claim that he's facing accountability due to partisan politics is without merit.

71d ago / 10:29 PM UTC

What will Trump be charged with?

Because the charges remain under seal, we don’t know precisely what they are. It’s fair to contemplate that they may go well beyond what we’ve been expecting, which is a false business records charge. The New York Times is reporting that the seal indictment has felony charges.

That central core charge that we’ve been talking about can be a misdemeanor or a felony, assuming that the reporting is accurate. We’re now looking at a possible felony falsified records charge. There could be more. It’s possible there could be tentacles that would reach into the presidency, including a cover up.

71d ago / 10:21 PM UTC

House GOP responds in the most predictable way

The "Kanye, Elon, Trump" triumvirate has been dethroned, apparently.

71d ago / 10:19 PM UTC

Michael Cohen: Trump indictment shows 'no one is above the law'

71d ago / 10:18 PM UTC

Is this indictment the first of several?

Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor in the Mueller special counsel’s office, spoke my language on “Deadline: White House” tonight, noting that the criminal charges against Trump may not be the most serious allegations he faces (he is, after all, a subject in multiple probes at the state and federal levels). But for prosecutors who may feel trepidation about bringing charges against Trump, Weissmnan noted that the Manhattan indictment may inspire them to take the “bold step they need to to defend the rule of law.”

That prospect is why I found it very interesting that Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes vowed, earlier this year, to investigate Trump’s 2020 fake elector scheme, which was designed to falsely declare Arizona’s Electoral College votes for Trump.

Who knows? If Weissman’s suspicion is right, today’s indictment may be the beginning of a cascade.

71d ago / 10:17 PM UTC

Indicting Trump was hard. Failing to indict would've been harder.

While indicting a former president is hard for our country, failing to indict him would have been worse.

If we can't stop a candidate from paying off porn stars to help him win the presidency, then we become a banana republic. But no one should be celebrating. It is a serious and solemn day, and not a time for a partisan party.

71d ago / 10:16 PM UTC

Bragg left us guessing until the last minute

Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg definitely kept his cards close to his chest there. For over a week now, reporters have been hunting for any scrap of information about if and when Bragg would be asking the grand jury convened in this investigation to vote on potential charges against Trump. In the past few days alone, I’ve heard that the grand jury may or may not be meeting this week, that the grand jury might be going on recess for up to a month, and that Bragg might not bring charges at all.

And so it was only minutes between the first report that the grand jury was voting after all and the news that they’d voted to indict. As much as it might have seemed that way at times, today’s indictment was never a forgone conclusion and still managed to come as a surprise even to those of us who had been watching most closely.

71d ago / 10:15 PM UTC

Trump's historic indictment may spark a historical reckoning

Trump’s indictment today marks the first ever criminal case against a former U.S. president. Expect this to trigger a broader debate in the coming days and months about the selectivity of the American criminal justice system — across the political spectrum. Not all of these conversations will be unreasonable.

While lots of politicians and activists on the QAnon-addled right are likely to raise absurd questions about Democratic presidents they believe belong in jail, the far left is more likely to raise important questions about how American presidents in both parties have long been immune to prosecution for war crimes, and have used executive power as a cover for all kinds of unconscionable activity under the banner of national security.

71d ago / 10:09 PM UTC

At long last, Trump will have to answer for his misconduct

At long last, Donald Trump will have to answer for his allegations of misconduct in a court of law. Tough talk and grievance will not fly there. In court, truth still matters.

71d ago / 10:08 PM UTC

New twist in Trump investigation: a second hush money payment

Hours before the news of Trump’s indictment broke, a new wrinkle was added to the case against the former president. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that prosecutors have also “been examining a $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model who alleged that she had an affair with the former president.”

Until today, the focus of the investigation has reportedly been on the money paid to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Much like the Daniels payment, we’ve known about the Karen McDougal hush money for years. The Federal Election Commission levied a fine against the National Enquirer for its role in silencing McDougal last year but let Trump himself off the hook. So the fact that we’re only just learning about this new line of inquiry is wild, given how much media attention has been on this case.

71d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

Why being the first prosecutor to indict Trump has its risks

have long maintained that no prosecutor wants to be the first to charge a former president of the United States. As we are seeing now, the first indictment attracts the white-hot glare of media attention from around the world. And some of that attention can be downright dangerous. 

An indictment is never a celebratory affair. It is simply a necessary step on the road to justice. But the indictment of a former president of the United States will send a necessary message, a powerful message, indeed a potentially democracy-saving message: Gone are the days when presidents are given carte blanche to commit crimes with impunity.

Read more of my analysis below:

71d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

Trump's mobster reputation comes full circle

With historic news that Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, it appears at least one aspect of the former president’s reputation has come full circle: namely his mobster-like behavior and penchant for shady business dealings. As I discuss in a recent column: “The mobster comparisons are befitting not just in Trump’s life and business modus operandi, but also now in the way Trump is finally being held accountable” — since charges are expected to fall in the category of “paper crimes” such as falsification of business records.

71d ago / 10:04 PM UTC

Maxine Waters wastes no time

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a liberal Black woman, has long been one of Trump’s most ferocious critics. It’s not surprising, then, that Waters wasted no time cheering the news of her nemesis’ legal predicament on Thursday: “SO Trump finally got indicted! I predicted he would and I predicted that Stormy Daniels would get him! Sometimes justice works!”

Given all the Democrats Trump has antagonized over the years, we can expect much more of this sentiment in the hours and days to come.

71d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

What one recovering lawyer will be looking for in the Trump indictment

Today, NBC News has confirmed a Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump. As of now, that indictment remains sealed. But once it is released to the public, as one colleague asked me last week, “What exactly should we be looking for?”

Here are the things I’m most interested in seeing in any charging document:

First and foremost, based on public reporting, most lawyers I know expect the DA to charge Trump with falsification of business records in the first degree, which is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. But the theory of that charge has prompted endless speculation from Twitter to The New York Times. (Full disclosure: I am among the speculators.)

In order for falsification of business records to qualify as a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor, it has to be done for the purpose of concealing or committing another crime. It’s widely understood that the second crime has something to do with the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, and potentially with a similar payment to former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal, but what precise crime or crimes are implicated has former prosecutors, legal academics and criminal defense lawyers alike scratching our heads.3

One reason is that most conceptions of a campaign finance violation by Trump are federal in nature. For example, purposefully failing to report a contribution or using a sham settlement to evade contribution limits are federal violations when it comes to federal candidates. It’s also possible that the underlying violation falls within state election law, but federal law expressly takes precedence over, or preempts, most, but not all, campaign finance charges that arise from state law. 

Nearly three weeks ago, I flagged that the Manhattan DA could be relying on a provision of New York election law that prohibits conspiracies to promote a particular person’s election to public office through “unlawful means,” and as the Times noted last week, that provision might be the Manhattan DA’s best option. But it’s still not without its flaws, including open questions about what the “unlawful means” might be.

Second, a falsification of business records charge necessitates identifying the specific business record or records at issue. Under the pertinent New York law, a business record is defined as “any writing or article, including computer data or a computer program, kept or maintained by an enterprise for the purpose of evidencing or reflecting its condition or activity.” Some lawyers I know believe the records at issue could be sham invoices through which Cohen and Trump made Trump’s reimbursement of the Daniels settlement look like payments of attorney’s fees. Others are more convinced that the records are internal accounting files or statements of financial condition that reflect the booking of those reimbursements as legal expenses.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, who exactly did Trump and/or others intend to defraud through the false business records at issue? The statute not only requires that the defendant have an “intent to defraud [that] includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof,” but New York courts have made clear that prosecutors must both prove that intent to defraud beyond a reasonable doubt. And other cases have fallen where prosecutors have failed to allege, much less prove, that the defendant had an intent to defraud any particular person, group or institution by virtue of the allegedly false business record. In other words, even if it’s clear that the false business record was created to conceal another crime, that alone won’t cut it without proof of intent to defraud someone (or perhaps, as in the case of a government entity, something) out of money, property, or a thing of value.

These are among the admittedly weedy questions that your lawyer friends have been batting around—and are eager to have answered when the indictment voted today is ultimately unsealed.

71d ago / 9:58 PM UTC

Trump’s former fixer: ‘Accountability matters and I stand by my testimony’

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer who previously testified before the Manhattan grand jury, issued a statement soon after news broke that the grand jury had voted to indict:

For the first time in our Country’s history, a President (current or former) of the United States has been indicted. I take no pride in issuing this statement and wish to also remind everyone of the presumption of innocence; as provided by the due process clause. However, I do take solace in validating the adage that no one is above the law; not even a former President. Today’s indictment is not the end of this chapter; but rather, just the beginning. Now that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself. The two things I wish to say at this time is that accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided to [Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg].

71d ago / 9:50 PM UTC

So, what is an indictment? 

A grand jury in New York voted to indict former President Donald Trump, three officials familiar with the matter said Thursday. But what does that mean?

Simply put, it’s the grand jury’s decision to formally accuse someone of committing a particular crime or crimes.

To reach that conclusion in New York, the grand jury needed to find reasonable cause to believe that a person committed a crime, based on legally sufficient evidence. That’s lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard needed to obtain a conviction at trial. But it’s the indictment that sets that potential trial in motion.

71d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

So Trump was indicted. When will we see a trial?

Short answer: It likely wouldn’t be any time soon.

As MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann noted recently for Deadline: Legal Blog, the criminal case against two Trump companies and former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg — brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office — took nearly 16 months to get to trial.

Weissman, who served as a lead prosecutor for Robert Mueller’s special counsel’s office, wrote: “Beyond Trump’s notorious abuse of the legal system by throwing sand in the gears to slow things down, a criminal case takes time. ...

“In short, there is no end of motions that can be filed to delay a trial, which could easily cause the litigation to be ongoing during the Republican primary season — something a court could also find is reason to delay any trial date.”

Read Andrew’s full story below.

71d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

Trump’s place in the history books is a work in progress

Trump already held the distinction of being the only president in American history to be impeached twice.

Now he will be the first former U.S. president to be indicted. And depending on what happens with other investigations, he could make even more history — by becoming the first former U.S. president to be indicted twice.