Former President Donald Trump was indicted Thursday night by a Manhattan grand jury on charges stemming from alleged payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Trump becomes the first former president to be indicted in a criminal case.
But what does it mean? And what comes next? WTOP spoke to multiple political reporters to help explain the importance of this case.
Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent of CBS News, called the possible sight of seeing a former president potentially put in handcuffs “jarring.”
Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing and has called on his supporters and the rest of the Republican Party to back him, turning blame on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, claiming he is backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
Bragg inherited the yearslong grand jury investigation into hush money paid on Trump’s behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign. He convened a new grand jury early this year after successfully convicting Trump’s company of tax fraud.
‘Prosecutors don’t like to lose cases’
“Prosecutors don’t like to lose cases, he could lose this,” CBS News legal analyst Thane Rosenbaum told WTOP. “On the other hand, [Bragg’s] saying ‘I gotta get a very favorable jury. Nobody in New York City likes him. Nobody likes Donald Trump. … The people that voted for me will be happy with what I did even if I don’t get a conviction.”
According to CBS News’ latest reporting, Bragg has assembled a felony case against the former president that’s more than just the testimony of Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“Talking about the payment to Stormy Daniels, we are told there are documents, financial and communications, about how this transaction took place,” Costa said. “And that witnesses have been asked about people beyond Stormy Daniels, they’ve been asked about the so-called ‘catch and kill’ operations to prevent unsavory stories from being published.”
What happens next?
What happens next is that the former president is expected to surrender next week in New York, where the charges of the indictment would be read to him.
“It’s going to be the spectacle that we’re going to see sometime in the next few days of the former President of the United States having to appear in a court, just like many other Americans facing very serious charges there in New York City,” Josh Gerstein, senior reporter for legal affairs at POLITICO, told WTOP.
“It’s just going to be a scene, the likes of which we’ve never seen before in this country,” he said.
The Stormy Daniels case isn’t the only legal trouble that Trump is facing.
He’s also looking at a possible indictment in Georgia about his role in overturning the 2020 presidential election results. Trump is also facing two grand jury investigations in D.C. — one on his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and the other on his handling of classified records.
“This does seem like comparatively small potatoes compared to some of the other investigations,” said Jeff Dufour, editor-in-chief for the National Journal, referring to the New York City indictment. “And we were talking about Jan. 6, classified documents, conspiracy charges … business fraud. And here we have hush money to a former adult film star.”
Despite this indictment, Trump said that he had no plans to drop out of the 2024 presidential election.
“In what will likely be a robust GOP primary, there are likely going to be a number of other candidates running,” said Mychael Schnell, congressional reporter for The Hill. “It’s pretty safe to say that this indictment will become a key part of the 2020 presidential campaign, particularly when we talk about the GOP primary.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.