PROMO 64J1 Politician - Donald Trump - FlickrCC - Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump indicted by New York grand jury

U.S. President Donald Trump. FlickrCC - Gage Skidmore

(The Center Square) – Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York Thursday, potentially kicking off one of the most controversial court cases in decades and the first criminal charges against a former or sitting president.

The specific charges and details of the indictment have not yet been released, but prosecutors presented evidence that Trump allegedly paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer seven years ago and illegally covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

His attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Trump likely will be arraigned early next week. At the arraignment, he could be fingerprinted and have a mugshot photo taken. But later Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, calling the indictment political, said he would not cooperate with any efforts to extradite Trump to New York from Florida, where Trump lives. Trump could voluntarily agree to attend his arraignment without an extradition fight, which is the most likely scenario.

Reacting to the indictment, Trump reiterated his stance that the investigation was a political witch hunt by Democrats and maintained his innocence.

"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. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever."

Analysts are divided on whether the indictment will hurt Trump politically or propel him as a martyr for his movement. Trump is running again for president in 2024. An indictment alone won't affect his ability to run.

Trump warned earlier this month that he would be arrested and called for his supporters to protest and “take our nation back.” Trump’s rhetoric sparked criticism from those who said he was asking for another event akin to the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The New York Police Department is working with federal law enforcement to beef up security throughout the city over the coming days.

Trump also faces investigations into whether he incited the January 6 riots, as well as a probe in Georgia over allegations he illegally attempted to overturn the 2020 election results, and one over the classified documents found at his Mar-A-Lago home after he left office. The indictment unsealed today is reportedly unrelated.

In his Thursday evening statement, Trump also took aim at New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who secured the indictment, as well as President Joe Biden.

"Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by [billionaire Democratic donor] George Soros, is a disgrace," he said. "Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he’s doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on. This is how Bragg spends his time! I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden."

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said that he was “funded by 1 million dollars from Soros” and has a “political vendetta against President Trump.”

“Being from New York we know that Alvin Bragg is ultimately the most radical District Attorney you can get,” she wrote on Twitter.

Bragg will have the power to decide whether to arrest and prosecute Trump now that he has the indictment. Legal experts have cast doubt on whether there really is a strong enough case against the former president.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has already joined other Republican lawmakers in launching an investigation into Bragg, who has taken fire for releasing violent criminals into the city.

“Was the Manhattan DA’s office in communication with DOJ about their investigation of President Trump?” Jordan said. Was the Manhattan DA’s office using federal funds to investigate President Trump? Alvin Bragg owes our committee answers.”