A grand jury in Manhattan has voted to indict former US president Donald Trump, over payments made to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Associated Press reports.
It is the first time a former US president will face criminal charges, and will likely shake up the 2024 electoral race, which Trump has expressed his interest in running for.
Mr Trump has vehemently denied the allegations, calling the probe “political persecution”. He has previously said he will still go for Republican electoral nomination if indicted, saying, “I wouldn’t even think about leaving.”
The exact charges are yet to be revealed because the indictment has not yet been unsealed by the judge, but it is based on the evidence heard by the grand jury.
This evidence, the Australian Financial Review reports from New York, regarded a $130,000 payment (AUD $193,000) to well-known adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, ahead of the 2016 election, which Trump won.
Daniels, whose name at birth was Stephanie Clifford, claims she was paid in exchange for silence, regarding an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump while he was a reality TV star.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who negotiated the money with Daniels, ended up pleading guilty to a 2018 charge of violating federal campaign finance laws and went to prison. He turned coat, providing key witness testimony in the grand jury probe.
Mr Trump continues to deny he had an affair with Daniels. He has released a statement, calling the probe a “witch-hunt” and calling it “election interference at the highest level in history”.
The indictment adds to a list of previous legal woes for the controversial ex-president, who served from 2017 to 2021. He was impeached twice while in office, firstly over allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice regarding Ukraine and secondly over the attacks on the US capitol, but was acquitted in both instances.
He is also facing two other legal battles at the same time as this indictment. One is a criminal investigation in Georgia into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn the 2020 election defeat, and another is a separate investigation into his handling of government documents after leaving office in 2020.
Yet, despite his run ins with the law, Trump still holds the highest support of the nominees in the Republican party. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released in March, he holds 44 per cent support, with his nearest rival on a much less 30 per cent.
Prosecutors have told Associated Press that they’re working to co-ordinate Trump’s surrender, to fly from his estate in Florida to face charges in Manhattan.