By Kara Scannell, John Miller, Jeremy Herb and Devan Cole, CNN
Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter -- the first time in American history that a current or former president has faced criminal charges.
The indictment has been filed under seal and will be announced in the coming days. The charges are not publicly known at this time. Trump will likely be arraigned in court early next week, according to his defense attorney, Joe Tacopina.
The DA's office has been investigating the former president in connection with his alleged role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up involving adult film star Stormy Daniels that dates to the 2016 presidential election. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office will reach out to Trump's attorneys to discuss his surrender to face an arraignment.
The decision is sure to send shockwaves across the country, pushing the American political system -- which has never seen one of its ex-leaders confronted with criminal charges, let alone while running again for president -- into uncharted waters.
Trump released a statement in response to the indictment claiming it was "Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history."
"I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden," the former president said. "The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our Movement, and our Party -- united and strong -- will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
Trump's lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement that Trump "is a victim of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system and history. He will be vindicated."
Trump was caught off guard by the grand jury's decision to indict him, according to a person who spoke directly with him While the former president was bracing for an indictment last week, he began to believe news reports that a potential indictment was weeks -- or more -- away.
"Is this a shock today? Hell yes," the person said, speaking on a condition of anonymity as Trump's team calculated its response.
Bragg's office said it is in touch with Trump's lawyers.
"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," the district attorney's office said in a statement Thursday. "Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected."
The legal action against Trump jolts the 2024 presidential campaign into a new phase, as the former president has vowed to keep running in the face of criminal charges.
Trump has frequently called the various investigations surrounding him a "witch hunt," attempting to sway public opinion on them by casting himself as a victim of what he's claimed are political probes led by Democratic prosecutors. As the indictment reportedly neared, Trump urged his supporters to protest his arrest, echoing his calls to action following the 2020 election as he tried to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.
Trump has long avoided legal consequences in his personal, professional and political lives. He has settled a number of private civil lawsuits through the years and paid his way out of disputes concerning the Trump Organization, his namesake company. As president, he was twice impeached by the Democratic-led House, but avoided conviction by the Senate.
In December, the Trump Organization was convicted on multiple charges of tax fraud, though Trump himself was not charged in that case.
Trump's Republican allies -- as well as his 2024 GOP rivals -- have condemned the Manhattan district attorney's office over the looming indictment, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to launch an investigation into the matter.
GOP rallies to Trump's defense
Congressional Republicans quickly rallied to Trump's defense, attacking Bragg on Twitter and accusing the district attorney of a political witch hunt.
"Outrageous," tweeted House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the Republican committee chairmen who has demanded Bragg testify before Congress about the Trump investigation.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, called the indictment "completely unprecedented" and said it is "a catastrophic escalation in the weaponization of the justice system."
But at least one moderate Republican told CNN he trusted the legal system.
"I believe in the rule of law. I think we have checks and balances and I trust the system," said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska.
"We have a judge. We have jurors. There is appeals. So I think in the end, justice will be done. If he's guilty it will show up. But if not, I think that will be shown too," Bacon told CNN.
Investigation began under Cy Vance
Bragg's office had signaled as recently as early March that they were close to bringing charges against Trump after they invited the ex-president to testify before the grand jury probing the hush money scheme. Potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges. But Trump ultimately declined to appear before the panel.
The long-running investigation first began under Bragg's predecessor, Cy Vance, when Trump was in office. It relates to a $130,000 payment made by Trump's then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to Daniels in late October 2016, days before the 2016 presidential election, to silence her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair.
At issue in the investigation is the payment made to Daniels and the Trump Organization's reimbursement to Cohen.
According to court filings in Cohen's own federal prosecution, Trump Organization executives authorized payments to him totaling $420,000 to cover his original $130,000 payment and tax liabilities and reward him with a bonus. The Trump Organization noted the reimbursements as a legal expense in its internal books. Trump has denied knowledge of the payment.
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