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Donald Trump has been indicted by a grand jury in Manhattan after an investigation into hush money payments to actress Stormy Daniels, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he fights another bid for the presidency.
The charges, stemming from an investigation led by Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg of the Democratic Party, could redraw the 2024 presidential race. Trump has previously said he would continue to campaign for the Republican nomination if he was charged with a crime.
Trump confirmed in a statement that he was “totally innocent”.
“This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,” he said, without providing evidence. Soon after, he appealed to his supporters for money for a legal defence.
Trump’s campaign says he has raised more than $2 million since he falsely predicted on March 18 that he would be arrested four days later.
The exact charges are not known yet and a judge is likely to reveal them in the coming days. Trump would then have to travel to Manhattan to be fingerprinted, among other procedures.
Prague’s office said it had contacted Trump’s lawyer to coordinate his surrender. A person familiar with the matter stated that it appears that this will happen at the beginning of next week.
His lawyers, Joseph Takopina and Suzanne Nikilis, said they would “fight vigorously” the charges, while another, Alina Haba, expected him to be acquitted.
The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges facing Trump, and the charges could hurt his bid to return to the presidency. About 44 percent of Republicans believe he should drop out of the race if indicted, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week.
Trump’s allies and fellow Republicans have criticized the charges as politically motivated, while Democrats have said he is not immune to the rule of law.
The White House declined to comment.
Trump leads his competitors seeking the Republican nomination, as he won the support of 44 percent of Republicans, compared to 30 percent for his closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not yet announced his candidacy. Biden is expected to seek re-election.