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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Johana Bhuiyan (now), Chris Stein and Martin Belam (earlier)

Trump to appear in court Tuesday as Stormy Daniels interview postponed over ‘security issues’ – as it happened

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Orlando, Florida.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Orlando, Florida. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images


That’s it from me this evening. Here’s what happened today:

  • Donald Trump will appear in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday afternoon to hear the charges filed against him by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, which likely center on his alleged hush money payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

  • Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News will go to trial.

  • Joe Biden does not want to talk about Trump’s indictment, but his press secretary said the president had no advance notice of the charges.

  • House Republicans again demanded documents and testimony from Bragg, and he again told them to take a hike.

  • American media organizations published a joint statement demanding the release of Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter detained in Russia.

  • Social media influencer Douglass Mackey AKA Ricky Vaughn was charged with election interference by the US attorney’s office of the eastern district of New York for conspiring to convince supporters of Hillary Clinton to vote in the 2016 election using text messaging or social media.


In other presidential election news, social media influencer Douglass Mackey, AKA “Ricky Vaughn,” was charged with conspiracy against rights for interfering in the 2016 election, according to an announcement from the US attorney’s office of the eastern district of New York.

Mackey, who had 58,000 followers on Twitter, is being charged with conspiring with other prominent accounts to use social media platforms such as Twitter to convince Hillary Clinton supporters to vote using text message or social media. The attorney’s office said that at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted “Hillary Clinton” to a number that Mackey and others deceptively shared on or around election day.

Here are some details from the US attorney’s office:

For example, on November 1, 2016, in or around the same time that Mackey was sending tweets suggesting the importance of limiting “black turnout,” the defendant tweeted an image depicting an African American woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign. The ad stated: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” and “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The fine print at the bottom of the deceptive image stated: “Must be 18 or older to vote. One vote per person. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Voting by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.” The tweet included the typed hashtag “#ImWithHer,” a slogan frequently used by Hillary Clinton.

“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 presidential election,” stated United States attorney Peace. “Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote.”


In a new statement, Fox News said this case is a matter of protecting the right to a free press and that it will “continue to fiercely advocate” for those rights.

“This case is and always has been about the first amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “Fox will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings.”


More details on the Dominion ruling from the 130-page decision: The judge ruled in favor of Dominion saying that Fox News’ statements were defamatory because the statements injured the company by accusing it of “fraud, deception, or other misconduct in its business”.

The court also ruled that there was not enough evidence to support that Fox News “conducted good faith, disinterested reporting”.


A judge ruled Dominion defamation case will go to trial

Delaware superior court judge Eric Davis issued a ruling on Friday that says the high-stakes trial determining whether Fox News defamed Dominion Voting Systems will proceed, according to CNN. Both Fox News and Dominion asked the judge to determine a pre-trial victor in separate motions, and while the ruling was a partial victory for Dominion, the judge ultimately determined the case should be heard in front of a jury.

The judge ruled that Dominion won its argument that Fox News made false statements about the company but that it would be up to a jury to decide if this was done with malice. Dominion said it was “gratified” by the court’s “thorough ruling”.

“We are gratified by the Court’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and finding as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false,” Dominion told the Guardian in a statement. “We look forward to going to trial.”


Hi this is Johana Bhuiyan taking over for Chris.

With the Stormy Daniels interview postponed, we can move our focus over to Dominion Voting Systems’ ongoing $1.6bn defamation lawsuit against Fox News.

A fresh batch of documents that are part of the litigation were made public on Friday which include texts between Fox News employees discussing banning Donald Trump’s lawyers after voting systems firm, Smartmatic threatened a defamation suit. The texts between a senior producer and Fox host Maria Bartiromo indicate that a Fox News executive David Clark said the network had banned Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis – all of whom were denying the results of the elections.

The texts were sent the same day Smartmatic issued a legal notice to Fox News demanding a retraction of “defamatory” statements made on air, according to CNN.


'Security issues' force postponement of Stormy Daniels interview

Broadcaster Piers Morgan says Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who is thought to be at the center of the criminal charges filed in Manhattan against Donald Trump, has postponed their interview due to unspecified “security issues”:


The White House, meanwhile, is marking today’s Transgender Day of Visibility by highlighting the Biden administration’s efforts to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people:

Joe Biden has issued an official proclamation marking the day, and the White House is also promoting a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aimed at highlighting ways of improving the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.

Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature is moving forward with an expansion of its parental rights law, Politico Florida reports:

Known to its detractors as the “don’t say gay” law, the initial legislation was signed by GOP governor Ron DeSantis last year as part of sweeping reforms to the state’s education system he has carried out ahead of a widely expected run for the White House in 2024. It prohibits instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade, which the governor has cast as a defense against the “indoctrination” at schools, but critics say muzzles speech.


US Capitol police are warning lawmakers of the potential for demonstrations nationwide related to Donald Trump’s indictment, Punchbowl News reports:

To Donald Trump’s allies, Alvin Bragg is a soft-on-crime prosecutor who only cares about indicting the former president.

The argument is one of many Republicans have made ever since the charges against Trump became public yesterday. Here’s senator Lindsey Graham with a particularly sarcastic take:

CNN reports that Donald Trump has been calling for backup from his friends in Congress following news of his indictment:

And some have responded to the call. Here’s far-right lawmaker Matt Gaetz:

But Gaetz isn’t just tweeting; he’s also fundraising off the charges against Trump.

“I will continue to stand with President Trump – because I know that he has always stood with us. Will you help me continue to be one of 45’s strongest defenders in the wake of this POLITICAL PERSECUTION?? He needs his top allies to be with him now more than EVER BEFORE!” Gaetz wrote in an email to supporters that included links to donate.

The Minneapolis city council on Friday approved an agreement with the state to revamp policing, nearly three years after a city officer murdered George Floyd.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights issued a blistering report last year that said the police department had engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade. City leaders subsequently agreed to negotiate a settlement with the agency, the Associated Press writes.

The city council approved the court-enforceable agreement Friday on an 11-0 vote, but not before several members expressed harsh criticism of the Minneapolis Police Department and other city leaders over the years.

“The lack of political will to take responsibility for MPD is why we are in this position today,” council member Robin Wonsley said.

“This legal settlement formally and legally prevents city leadership from deferring that responsibility anymore. And I hope this settlement is a wake-up call for city leaders, whom the public has watched rubber-stamp poor labor contracts, have signed off on endless misconduct settlements, and then shrugged their shoulders when residents asked then why we have a dysfunctional police department.”

The state agency launched its investigation shortly after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, disregarding the Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked mass protests that spread around the world and reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement.

It forced a national reckoning on racial injustice and compelled the Minneapolis Police Department to begin an overhaul.

Community members visit one of the murals at George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. June 3, 2021.
Community members visit one of the murals at George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. June 3, 2021. Photograph: Nicole Neri/Reuters

Prosecutor can publicly confirm indictment – court

A judge has authorized the Manhattan district attorney to disclose to the public that the grand jury has returned an indictment in the case of former US president Donald Trump, according to a court document, Reuters reports.

The indictment has been under seal since last night when it emerged that the grand jury in the case had voted to have Trump charged with crimes.

Now prosecutor Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA, has been given permission by the court to acknowledge publicly the existence of the indictment.

It would be atypical for him to ask for the indictment to be unsealed and for him to disclose the charges to the public ahead of the court appearance due by Trump next Tuesday, but we wait to see if that is what Bragg is going to request and do.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, in New York CityA screen shows New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg and former U.S. President Donald Trump after Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, as traders work on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), in New York City, U.S., March 31, 2023.
A screen shows the New York district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and former president Donald Trump after Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters


The day so far

Donald Trump will appear in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday afternoon to hear the charges filed against him by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, which likely center on his alleged hush money payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels. The appearance will kick off what is expected to be a lengthy legal battle by the former president, who is trying to return to the White House in next year’s presidential election. Follow this blog for the latest on this developing story.

Here’s a rundown of what has happened today so far:

CNN also has the approximate time on Tuesday when Donald Trump will be arraigned:

CNN has details of where Donald Trump will be ahead of his Tuesday arraignment:

Donald Trump hasn’t appeared in court yet, but already is airing grievances against the judge he said will hear his case next Tuesday.

“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME”, the former president wrote on the Truth social network this morning.

You can read the rest here.

Donald Trump to be arraigned Tuesday: NY court

Donald Trump’s arraignment will happen on Tuesday afternoon, New York court officials confirmed, according to the Associated Press:


Broadcaster Piers Morgan has snagged the first interview with adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who received the hush money payment Donald Trump allegedly facilitated:

The payment to Daniels is believed to be at the heart of the charges Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has filed against Trump. However, we won’t know for sure until the criminal complaint is made public, likely at the former president’s arraignment next week.

US media organizations call for release of Evan Gershkovich

Four major American news outlets – Politico, the New York Times, Bloomberg News and the Washington Post – have released a joint statement calling for the release of Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal who was arrested in Russia on Wednesday.

Here’s the statement in full:

We are deeply troubled by Russia’s detention of Evan Gershkovich, a respected Wall Street Journal reporter whose coverage of Russia has been fair and accurate at a time when the world needs reliable information.

Evan’s detention is intended to have a chilling effect on independent journalism and deprive the public of essential news.

We call for the immediate release of Evan.

Also facing legal trouble today is Norfolk Southern, which is being sued by the justice department over the February derailment of one of its trains in Ohio that caused a chemical spill:

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against freight train giant Norfolk Southern over its 3 February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, CNN reported on Friday.

The lawsuit reportedly seeks damages for alleged Clean Water Act violations. The derailment of 38 cars including 11 carrying hazardous materials led to the release of over a million gallons of hazardous materials, Ohio’s attorney general has said.

Meanwhile, it emerged that a team of government officials became sick while investigating the health effects of the toxic train derailment, when they visited the Ohio site earlier this month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CNN.

Far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said she will be in New York on Tuesday, the day Donald Trump is expected to be arraigned:

Joe Biden found out about Donald Trump’s indictment through media reports that were relayed to him by his chief of staff Jeff Zients, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The president “was not given a heads-up,” Jean-Pierre said during the president’s flight to visit tornado-ravaged areas of Mississippi.

She otherwise dodged most questions about the indictment, mirroring Biden’s refusal to comment about it earlier in the day.

When he appears in court next week to answer the charges against him, Donald Trump will not be handcuffed, his attorney Joe Tacopina told ABC News this morning.

The appearance is expected on Tuesday. In an interview with Reuters, Tacopina said Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has agreed not to handcuff the former president.

You can watch the full ABC News interview with Tacopina here:


Manhattan DA again rejects demands from House GOP

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has spurned a second attempt by House Republican leaders to scrutinize his indictment of Donald Trump, according to a letter sent by an attorney for the prosecutor.

The chairs of three House committees had earlier this month demanded testimony and documents from Bragg after it became clear he was getting close to filing charges against Trump, a request the Manhattan prosecutor denied. Last week, they sent a second demand letter to Bragg, which he again rejected in a letter today sent by his attorney Leslie B Dubeck:

Bragg’s office cites an array of reasons for not cooperating with the GOP’s request, including confidentiality and the ongoing criminal process. However, he does offer to meet with the staffs of the committees, which are led by Republicans aligned with the former president.

The New York Young Republican Club has put out a statement that managed to stand out among the many other voices defending Donald Trump.

Perhaps it’s this line that does it:

President Trump embodies the American people – our psyche from id to super-ego – as does no other figure; his soul is totally bonded with our core values and emotions, and he is our total and indisputable champion. This tremendous connection threatens the established order.

Joining the chorus of Republicans claiming Donald Trump’s indictment is motivated by politics is Chuck Grassley, the Iowa lawmaker who is the most senior GOP senator in history.

In a tweet, he points his finger at Joe Biden’s brother and son, and claims the justice system is partial to Democrats – though in the case of Hunter Biden, the word, as of last October, was that federal prosecutors were nearing charges against him:

Donald Trump and his advisers had been anticipating the indictment for days – but the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports its arrival yesterday evening nonetheless caught them off guard:

Donald Trump and his top advisers were caught flat footed by the news of his indictment by the Manhattan grand jury over hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, having expected no charges until at least the end of April and potentially never at all.

The former president reckoned – along with his aides – that recent reporting about the grand jury taking a break from next week meant prosecutors in the district attorney’s office were reconsidering whether to seek an indictment over the matter.

But that optimism proved to be misplaced when Trump was alerted at Mar-a-Lago to the indictment by his advisers, some of whom had decided to return to Washington after growing tired of waiting with him for several weeks for charges to materialize.

'Let him go': Biden on US reporter detention

As he departed for Mississippi, Biden shared a message for Russia after it detained the US reporter Evan Gershkovich earlier this week: “Let him go.”

The Biden administration reacted with fury to the news that Gershkovich, who works for the Wall Street Journal, was taken into custody on Wednesday during a reporting trip to Ekaterinburg, a city near the Urals region. He has been accused of espionage charges that carry a jail sentence of up to 20 years, but Russia experts say the arrest is akin to hostage-taking, with Moscow planning to use Gershkovich as leverage in negotiations with the US.


Perhaps you are wondering what Joe Biden makes of the indictment of his immediate predecessor.

Well, he’s not going to tell you – at least not yet. Today, he is heading to Mississippi to visit a community ravaged by a deadly tornado that left 26 people dead. As he was leaving the White House, reporters asked him to comment on the charges against Donald Trump, without success, the Associated Press reports:

Our columnist Moira Donegan writes for the Guardian today, and she argues that any political bias in indicting Donald Trump might run the other way to what a lot of Republican figures have been claiming:

The theory of the case, and the one that has always been most plausible, is that Cohen, and not Trump, initially paid Daniels off because if Trump had paid her, that payment would have been subject to scrutiny – both from campaign finance regulators and from the public. And in the waning days of what was a chaotic and flailing election, this was scrutiny that the Trump campaign could not afford.

The Stormy Daniels affair is not the most serious of Trump’s crimes, and so it can seem anticlimactic, and even a little ridiculous, that this is the only bit of his wrongdoing that he has been indicted for. Trump will no doubt claim that the indictment against him on these comparatively trivial grounds is politically motivated.

But if anything, what seems politically motivated is the fact that Trump has not been indicted on criminal charges already: his criminality and corruption are so profligate and unconcealed that the failure to charge him – a failure which until Thursday was unanimous among prosecutors across the country – seemed manifestly a result of fear. “No one is above the law” is something prosecutors like to say a lot; but the large-scale impunity for the rich and powerful indicates that they don’t quite believe it.

Read more of Moira Donegan’s column here: Hush money to a porn star – of course this was how Trump was indicted

There will be an awful lot of words written and spoken in the next few days in reaction to the indictment of Donald Trump last night. But one reaction that is sure to be replayed again and again is the gasp heard live on Fox News last night as the story broke.


CNN’s Kaitlan Collins has tweeted that during this morning’s interview rounds, Donald Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed that the former president was “shocked” by the indictment. “It was shock because it was actually coming to fruition,” Tacopina told ABC, she reports.


Mike Allen’s Axios newsletter just dropped, and he offers this summing up of the implications of the indictment for the race for the Republican nomination for next year’s election, writing:

President Trump, who has spent his life ruthlessly manoeuvering to get his way, now is at the mercy of a justice system he can’t bully – and, ultimately, in the hands of a Manhattan jury. [But] of all the investigations Trump faces, the case by Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is viewed by most legal experts as the thinnest – unless the prosecutor has something surprising up his sleeve.

Most Republicans think this helps Trump in the short run – and could even provide a glide path to the Republican nomination. This freezes the race at a time when Trump holds a huge lead in Republican polls. That’s likely to grow with the saturation coverage ahead.

Indictment-themed Republican fundraising texts and emails started instantly, with Trump as a martyr [and] with Trump taking up all that oxygen, it’ll be even harder for Florida Gov Ron DeSantis – or any Trump rival – to gain traction.

Nevertheless, as Allen goes on to note:

For the general election, with suburban women as a potentially decisive bloc, it’s a totally different story. An indicted (at least) standard-bearer isn’t a great look for attracting swing voters.


Tulsi Gabbard, a former congressional representative for Hawaii and candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election, has described the indictment of Donald Trump as “a despicable, extremely dangerous turning point for our country”.

Gabbard, who left the Democratic party in October 2022, tweeted:

The politicized indictment of former President Trump is just the latest example of the Dem establishment putting their own personal and partisan political interest ahead of the interests of the American people and our country. It is a despicable, extremely dangerous turning point for our country.


Our columnist Marina Hyde has turned her attention to Donald Trump this morning, writing that in Trump’s fantasy comeback, he’ll be wearing handcuffs:

It’s remarkable that after all the hardcore and extreme political and financial stuff Trump pulled in office and beyond, it’s the fallout from an alleged textbook generic shag that’s left him most exposed. To adapt the calcified cliche about Al Capone, they’re trying to get him on sex evasion. It remains highly unclear that they’ll succeed, and even less likely that jail time would be served.

He becomes the first president to be indicted and face criminal charges, an accolade to take its place in his trophy cabinet alongside being the first US president to be impeached twice, and indeed the first president to incite an insurrection against the US government.

I think this is the point at which I am supposed to type that Trump has always denied having sex with Stormy Daniels, despite the matter of this six-figure payment to her. He also denies any wrongdoing in relation to the charges. Taking him at his word (!), you have to wonder how far he’d go to bury something he did actually do, if that’s what he’d pay for something he didn’t.

Read more of Marina Hyde’s column here: Now we know: in Trump’s fantasy comeback, he’ll be wearing handcuffs

Here is a video clip of the small band of Trump supporters who gathered at Mar-a-Lago last night to protest against the indictment of the former president.

The New York Times is reporting that “The felony indictment charging Donald Trump for his role in paying hush money to a porn star in the days before the 2016 presidential election includes more than two dozen counts, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.”

However, with the indictment sealed, it still isn’t clear exactly what the former president is to be charged with. The Hill has this analysis of what the case may consist of:

Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been probing a $130,000 hush money payment that Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, made to Daniels in October 2016, just weeks before the presidential election.

A hush payment by itself is legal, but outside legal experts have suggested the indictment is likely to focus on charges of falsifying business records. Prosecutors would first need to show that Trump, with an intent to defraud, was personally involved in improperly designating reimbursements a legal expense.

That still amounts to a misdemeanor under New York law, carrying up to one year of jail time per count.

But the inclusion of a felony charge suggests prosecutors believe they can make a case tying the record falsification to another crime, augmenting the maximum jail time to four years per count.

Trump has acknowledged the payment to Daniels, though he denies her claim the two had sexual relations. Trump’s attorneys have also claimed that Trump made the payment to protect false information from hurting his marriage. They have contended he did not make the payment to influence the election, nodding to the possibility that Bragg could seek felony charges by asserting the payments violated campaign laws in some fashion.


There is some analysis from political website The Hill this morning, suggesting that not all Democrats are cheering the indictment. It writes:

A handful of liberals are blasting the decision as a strategic mistake – politically speaking – since the Manhattan case features the least serious of the accusations Trump faces across various other investigations. Given the seriousness of the potential charges in those pending cases, some liberals fear that Bragg’s decision will undermine any indictments that follow.

“After inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol, pressuring local officials to overturn the 2020 election, receiving financial kickbacks from foreign powers, and numerous other crimes during his presidency, it’s embarrassing and infuriating that the first indictment against Trump is about … Stormy Daniels,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

Some Democrats – including Rep Adam Schiff, who led Trump’s first impeachment – have been highly critical of the department of justice for failing to bring any charges against Trump even more than two years after the 6 January attack.

The indictment of Donald Trump has profound implications for the Republican race for the nomination for next year’s presidential election. As Jill Colvin writes for Associated Press, it is likely to force his potential rivals into the awkward position of having to defend him – or risk the wrath of Trump’s support base.

Polls show Trump remains the undisputed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and his standing has not faltered, even amid widespread reporting on the expected charges.

But while the sight of Trump’s involvement with the criminal justice system might galvanise his own supporters, and bring in a raft of small dollar donations, the turmoil could threaten Republican standing in the very swing-state suburbs that have abandoned the party in three successive elections, eroding its grip on the White House, Congress and key governorships.

There is little chance a criminal trial will help Trump in a general election, particularly with independents, who have grown tired of his constant chaos. That has provided an opening for alternatives like Ron DeSantis, who are expected to paint themselves as champions of the former president’s policies – but without all his legal baggage.

It should be noted that an indictment, or even a conviction, would not bar Trump from running for president or serving as the Republican nominee.

Several US media outlets are focused this morning on the fact that the indictment of former president Donald Trump comes after decades of investigations into his business dealings by state and federal authorities. As Stephen Collinson put it for CNN:

The move was especially stunning given Trump’s long record of impunity, which has seen him constantly stretch the limits of the law and the conventions of accepted behaviour with his uproarious personal, business and political careers. Suddenly, Trump’s decades of evading accountability will end. The former president will have to start answering for his conduct.

The perception of this extraordinary case will turn on two questions fundamental to the credibility of American justice: Are all citizens – even the most powerful, like former presidents and White House candidates – considered equal under the law? Or is Trump being singled out because of who he is?

Marc Fisher in the Washington Post provided this context, writing:

50 years after federal officials first accused Trump and his father of violating laws that barred racial discrimination in apartment rentals, the former president has been indicted. The indictment in the Daniels case comes amid an Atlanta-area investigation into Trump’s role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, and a special counsel’s federal investigations into Trump’s actions leading up to the 6 January riot at the Capitol, as well as his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Already, Trump’s statements about the Daniels case have followed a pattern he set in 1973, when federal prosecutors accused Trump and his father, Fred, a prominent New York City apartment developer, of turning away Black people who wanted to rent from them. In that case, Trump first denied the allegation, then said he didn’t know his actions were illegal, and then, through his lawyer, accused the government of conducting a bogus “Gestapo-like investigation.”

This time, Trump initially said he’d never had any sexual relationship with Daniels or that, as he told friends privately, Daniels was not his type. Then, he said he didn’t know Daniels had been paid $130,000 to remain silent about their alleged relationship, which he denies existed. And then he said that perhaps he had known about the payment, but that he never ordered his attorney, Michael Cohen, to make it.


Peter Baker last night in the New York Times tried to put into words just how unprecedented the unfolding events are, writing:

So many unthinkable firsts have occurred since Donald Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, so many inviolable lines have been crossed, so many unimaginable events have shocked the world that it is easy to lose sight of just how astonishing this particular moment really is.

For all of the focus on the tawdry details of the case or its novel legal theory or its political impact, the larger story is of a country heading down a road it has never traveled before, one fraught with profound consequences for the health of the world’s oldest democracy. For more than two centuries, presidents have been held on a pedestal, even the ones swathed in scandal, declared immune from prosecution while in office and, effectively, even afterward.

No longer. That taboo has been broken. A new precedent has been set. Will it tear the country apart, as some feared about putting a former president on trial after Watergate? Will it be seen by many at home and abroad as victor’s justice akin to developing nations where former leaders are imprisoned by their successors? Or will it become a moment of reckoning, a sign that even someone who was once the most powerful person on the planet is not above the law?

The partisan nature of the response to Trump’s indictment can be summed up in two images. An anti-Trump banner was unfurled outside the New York criminal court building shortly after the indictment was announced, while Trump supporters gathered to protest outside Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

People unfurled a sign across the street from the New York criminal court building shortly after the indictment was announced.
People unfurled a sign across the street from the New York criminal court building shortly after the indictment was announced. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
Supporters of former US President Donald Trump protest near the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida last night.
Supporters of Donald Trump protesting near the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida last night. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images


Michael R Sisak for Associated Press has this account of how events unfolded towards the end of the day yesterday.

He reports that Donald Trump’s indictment was quietly brought to the clerk’s office at the Manhattan criminal courthouse just before closing time on Thursday.

A woman and two men in suits walked in past reporters who have been staking out the office for weeks, then turned a corner and disappeared through a door to a non-public area known as the indictment room.

Sisak states that the vibe in the room shifted, and then around the courthouse, too. The clerk’s office, normally a bustle of lawyers and paralegals seeking case files and submitting papers, people posting bail and court employees cracking jokes, grew quiet and tense.

Moments later, just before 5pm local time, when a reporter asked if there were any filings involving “People v Donald Trump” – her customary end-of-day question in recent days – a usually cheerful clerk sternly replied: “We have no information on that case. The office is closing. You have to leave.”

The reporters, from outlets including the Associated Press legal publication Law360, left the office and stood outside in the hallway, watching through glass doors as workers turned out the lights and the people who’d walked in a few minutes earlier worked in darkness inside filing the indictment.

“After visiting the clerk’s office for weeks, this was all very strange,” said Frank Runyeon, a reporter for Law360. “Very unusual and we knew something was up.”

As the people continued to work, and reporters peered in at what was going on, court officers came to the hallway and shooed the press away. That floor of the courthouse was now closed, they said.

The indictment remains under seal, its contents secret, likely until Trump is arraigned. But news of the indictment, voted on by a grand jury sitting in a court building across the street from the criminal courthouse, broke shortly afterwards.


David Smith, the Guardian’s Washington DC bureau chief, offers this analysis this morning: After indictment, Trump will play the victim – and the tactic will work for many Republicans

Florida-based Trump is now expected to surrender himself on Tuesday to the Manhattan district attorney (DA) to be fingerprinted and photographed for a mugshot – something guaranteed to delight his many opponents, appall his fans and divide the United States even more.

30 March 2023 is therefore a day for the history books. It offered an affirmation of the Magna Carta principle that no one, not even the onetime commander in chief, is above the law. The 45th president of the United States is set to stand trial and, if convicted, could find himself behind bars instead of running for re-election.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said on the MSNBC network: “Tomorrow, in terms of American history, we will be waking up in a different country. Before tonight, presidents in this country were kings.”

But while the law is clear, the politics are murky. A criminal charge or even conviction does not prevent someone running for the White House, and Trump is currently leading in opinion polls for the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

In the pre-Trump universe, an indictment over a hush money payment to an adult film star would have been career-ending. Candidates have withdrawn from election races for much less.

But since 2016, Trump has been a political judo master, turning the weight of opponents and allegations against them to his own advantage. The bigger the alleged crime, the louder he airs grievances and the more he plays the victim – and so far the Republican party has been mostly willing to indulge him.

Read more of David Smith’s analysis here: After indictment, Trump will play the victim – and the tactic will work for many Republicans


Republican politicians were also swift to react to the news. Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, called the indictment “un-American” and assailed Bragg as a “Soros-backed” Manhattan prosecutor who was “stretching the law to target a political opponent”.

He added that as governor of Florida, where Trump has lived since leaving the White House, he would not oblige an extradition request should Trump refuse to surrender voluntarily.

News networks that lean towards the Republicans were vocal in their criticism of the indictment last night.

Associated Press reports that Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters called it “totally unacceptable and a disgrace to this country”. Fox’s Sean Hannity said “This is repulsive. This is a disgusting political hit job the likes of which we have never seen in this country anymore.”

Commentator Pete Hegseth said “This is a horrible night for the republic, but politically it’s a great night for Donald Trump,” and he predicted that mugshots of the former president would be proudly displayed in college dorm rooms and on T-shirts.


Reaction to the news of Donald Trump’s indictment was swift overnight, not least from the former US president himself, as the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino reports:

Trump, who is running again for president, reacted angrily in a lengthy statement that denounced the grand jury vote as “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history”.

He framed the indictment as part of a long litany of investigations he has faced since he “came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower” to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015. He was the first president to be impeached twice, first over his efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president into announcing a criminal investigation into Joe Biden, and later for his role inciting the violence that unfolded in his name on 6 January 2021.

“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference,” he said. “Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done.”

Trump ratcheted up his attacks on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, accusing him of “doing Joe Biden’s dirty work” while failing to prosecute crime in New York.

Read more from Lauren Gambino here: Reactions to Trump’s indictment run the gamut, cynical to sublime


What we know so far …

Donald Trump has been indicted by a grand jury in New York over a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Daniels claims she had an affair with the former US president in 2006. Trump denies the affair, but has admitted directing his one-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to pay Daniels $130,000 for her silence.

Here is what we know so far:

  • Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s spokesperson told the media: “This evening we contacted Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s Office for arraignment on a supreme court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”

  • Trump was expected to appear in court for his arraignment on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles said. At that point he would enter a plea on the charges.

  • It is unclear whether Trump will be handcuffed at his appearance but he will be fingerprinted, photographed and processed for a felony arrest. His legal team is expected to vigorously fight the charges, and a timeline for a potential trial remains unclear.

  • No former US president has ever been criminally indicted. The news will shake the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, in which Trump leads most polls.

  • Trump attacked Bragg and US President Joe Biden in a statement released shortly after the news broke, claiming the indictment amounted to “political persecution”. “I believe this witch-hunt will backfire massively on Biden,” Trump said. “Our movement, and our party – united and strong – will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden.”

  • New York’s police have been told to all report for duty on Friday and be prepared to deal with “unusual disorder”, according to a memo seen by NBC.

I am Martin Belam in London, and I will be bringing you the latest updates and reaction as the US wakes up this morning to this unprecedented legal and political situation.


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