Former US President Donald Trump First in American History to Be Criminally Indicted

Former US President Donald Trump has become the first former president in American history to be criminally indicted, with a Manhattan grand jury voting to indict him on Thursday on charges related to paying hush money to a former porn star.[0] While the specific charges remain unknown as the indictment is still under seal, the case shatters a long-held American political norm.[0] In the past, former presidents found to have covered up evidence related to scandals, such as Richard Nixon during the Watergate break-in, were preemptively pardoned by their successors.[1]

This indictment marks a significant moment in American politics, as Trump seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. For months, it has been apparent that Trump might face legal charges, and now the once unthinkable has taken place. The case is sure to become a dominant storyline in American politics in the months ahead, spurring an unprecedented legal spectacle.[2]

The indictment relates to allegations that Trump coordinated hush-money payments in advance of the 2016 election.[3] It comes amid several other investigations into alleged misconduct, including Trump’s unauthorized removal of classified material from the White House, allegations of election meddling in Georgia, and his handling of the January 6th, 2021, Capitol riot.[3] Trump and his children are also facing a civil lawsuit from the New York Attorney General alleging they illegally inflated the value of their assets to secure more favorable loans.[4]

While it remains to be seen how this indictment will affect the other investigations into Trump, such as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s investigation into whether Trump criminally disrupted the 2020 election or the Department of Justice probe into his removal of classified documents, the indictment is a significant development in the ongoing legal battles surrounding the former president.[2]

Trump's defense attorney Joe Tacopina said Thursday night that Trump is expected to be arraigned as early as Tuesday.[1] While it is unlikely that prosecutors would seek to detain the former president or restrict his travel in the US while the case is pending, if Trump were to win the presidency while facing charges or a conviction, there are serious constitutional questions about whether a state court could keep someone elected to federal office from serving.[5]

Trump has called the indictment “political persecution” in a statement and suggested that it would have a boomerang effect in the next election.[3] Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has urged both Trump’s critics and supporters to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law, with no outside political influence, intimidation, or interference in the case.[6]

The investigation into Trump centers on a $130,000 payment his former fixer Michael Cohen made to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign to allegedly keep her from going public about an affair she says she had with Trump years earlier, which Trump has denied.[7] Cohen went to prison in part over the payment, which federal prosecutors believed amounted to an illicit campaign donation. He pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 to making the illegal payment to Daniels for the “principal purpose of influencing” the 2016 presidential election and said he did so at Trump’s direction.[8] He received a three-year prison sentence for that and other offenses.[9]

While the task before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is not impossible, he is facing an uphill battle in this case, particularly due to the high-profile nature of the defendant.[10] The prosecution will need to prove its case to a jury, and with Trump’s liberty on the line, the entire criminal legal system is in for the fight of a lifetime.[10]

0. “Trump's Indictment Is an Astonishing, Frightening First” The Atlantic, 30 Mar. 2023,

1. “What Trump’s indictment could mean for his third run for president” The Boston Globe, 30 Mar. 2023,

2. “Donald Trump Was Just Indicted. Here's What to Know About the Charges and the Case” TIME, 10 Mar. 2023,

3. “Trump indictment: What are the next steps and the implications?” CBS News, 31 Mar. 2023,

4. “Trump Indicted By Manhattan Grand Jury—Arraignment Expected Tuesday On Over 30 Charges, Reports Say” Forbes, 31 Mar. 2023,

5. “Your questions about the Trump indictment, answered” POLITICO, 31 Mar. 2023,

6. “Dems react to Trump indictment: Schiff calls it ‘sobering,' Waters knew ‘Stormy Daniels would get him'” Fox News, 30 Mar. 2023,

7. “Trump becomes 1st current or former president to be indicted” ABC News, 30 Mar. 2023,

8. “Trump, aides caught off guard by indictment, believed weeks away: NYT” Business Insider, 30 Mar. 2023,

9. “Former President Donald Trump indicted by Manhattan grand jury” NBC News, 30 Mar. 2023,

10. “Alvin Bragg's indictment of Donald Trump is full of challenge and promise.” Slate, 30 Mar. 2023,

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