Former US President Donald Trump has surrendered to authorities and has been arrested in Manhattan. A grand jury had reportedly voted to indict him on more than 30 charges, which are believed to centre on allegations of falsifying business records regarding the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump had flown from Mar-a-Lago to New York City on Monday to prepare for his arrest. He is expected to plead not guilty at an arraignment before flying back to Florida where he will deliver an address from Mar-a-Lago.
The arrest is a historical moment, as it marks the first time a former US president has faced criminal charges and the prospect of jail time. The indictment revives the controversy over Trump’s effort to quash disclosure of an alleged affair with Daniels that began during a 2006 celebrity golf tournament and lasted into 2007. Trump’s efforts to reimburse his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, for the payment to Daniels as part of a bogus retainer agreement constituted felony falsification of business records.
The Trump Organization repaid and rewarded Cohen with a monthly retainer of $35,000, which it booked as legal expenses. In Cohen’s sentencing documents, Trump was alleged to have directed and coordinated his fixer’s actions. During his presidency, Trump appointees in the Justice Department attempted to remove references to the president’s role in the case in court documents prepared for the Cohen criminal case, according to a memoir by the former US Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
For a time, it appeared Trump would escape legal accountability for the payment, but a new examination of the facts under New York law began after the election of Alvin Bragg as Manhattan DA in November 2021. Early this year, Bragg impaneled a grand jury, which led to the former president’s indictment.
Trump has appealed to the court of public opinion, claiming on his social media platform Truth Social that the charges against him were based on “an old and fully debunked fairytale” and calling the Manhattan district attorney’s office corrupt and highly political. He has also used his indictment to galvanise his political followers, raising $7m in donations after the announcement of the indictment.