Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges even as he makes another run for the White House.
The charges, arising from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, came as Trump seeks the Republican nomination to run again in 2024. He indicated in a statement on Thursday that he intended to remain in the race.
Trump said in the statement that he was "completely innocent."
"This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history," he said, providing no evidence.
Shortly after, Trump appealed to supporters to provide money for a legal defense. He has raised over US$2 million, according to his campaign, since he incorrectly predicted on March 18 that he would be arrested four days later.
The specific charges are not yet known and the indictment will likely be unsealed by a judge in the coming days. Trump will have to travel to Manhattan for fingerprinting and other processing at that point.
Bragg's office said it had contacted Trump's attorney to coordinate a surrender. A person familiar with the matter said it seemed likely that would happen early next week.
Trump's lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said they will "vigorously fight" the charges.
The Manhattan investigation is one of several legal challenges facing Trump. The charges could hurt his presidential comeback attempt, as the mug shot from his arraignment and any visuals from his courtroom appearances could provide fodder for rivals.
Some 44 percent of Republicans said he should drop out of the race if he is indicted, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week.
Trump's allies and fellow Republicans blasted the indictment as politically motivated, while Democrats said he is not immune from the rule of law.
The White House declined to comment.
Outside the courthouse, several protesters silently held signs criticizing Trump. Authorities bolstered security around the courthouse after Trump called for nationwide protests on March 18, recalling his charged rhetoric ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. (Reuters)
Last updated: 2023-03-31 HKT 08:35