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In a statement, Trump, reportedly the first former U.S. president in American history to be indicted on criminal charges, said "this is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history."

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. President Donald Trump was reportedly indicted by a New York grand jury on Thursday for his role in an alleged hush-money payment to an adult film actress.

Multiple news outlets, including The New York Times, ABC News, and The Washington Post, broke the news of the indictment on Thursday, quoting people familiar with the situation.

Trump, 76, is said to be the first former U.S. president in American history to be indicted on criminal charges.

A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said in a statement that they contacted Trump's attorney to "coordinate his surrender" for arraignment on "a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal."

"Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected," the statement read.

In a statement, Trump said, "this is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history."

Bragg and his aides have been investigating alleged Trump's role in a hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The payment of 130,000 U.S. dollars was said to be used to prevent Daniels from going public about an alleged sexual encounter that she had with Trump in 2006.

Then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, before being reimbursed by the Trump Organization, which described the reimbursement as legal fees.

Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal charges, including campaign finance violations, and was sentenced in late 2018 to three years in prison.

"Today's indictment is not the end of this chapter; but rather, just the beginning," Cohen said in a statement. "Now that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself."

Trump, a Republican who won the 2016 White House race and later served as U.S. president, has denied that the affair happened, dismissed any wrongdoing, and claimed that the inquiry is politically motivated.

The case has been closely watched as no former U.S. president has ever been indicted on criminal charges and Trump is running again for the White House.

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Trump's defense attorney, Joe Tacopina, said on Thursday that Trump will likely be arraigned early next week but the 2024 presidential candidate is expected to continue campaigning since he is unlikely to be held in Manhattan while the case against him plays out.

Trump, who lives in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, "will have to be transported" to New York City, according to former U.S. federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig.

"The next legal proceeding is an arraignment," Honig said. "A defendant appears before a judge and is advised of the charges."

All uniformed members of the New York Police Department need to be "prepared for deployment" and "remain prepared for mobilization at any time during their assigned tour," according to an internal police memo obtained by The New York Times.

Republicans are rallying behind Trump, echoing his accusations that the justice system has been weaponized by the Democratic Party for political purposes.

"Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election," U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted.

The House, led by Republicans, "will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account," McCarthy warned.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican 2024 presidential candidate, said, "Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances."

Democratic lawmakers and party officials have also weighed in and, by contrast, have cast the indictment against Trump as an accountability move.

"The indictment of a former president is unprecedented," U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff said. "But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged."

In addition to the hush-money payment case, Trump is facing several other criminal investigations at the state and federal level, including his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, his handling of classified documents, and his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

© Provided by Xinhua

A majority of Americans believe that Trump should be disqualified from running for president again if he is criminally charged in any of the multiple federal and state investigations he faces, according to the latest poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.

The survey released earlier this week found that 57 percent of respondents said Trump should be disqualified from seeking the White House if he is criminally charged, compared with 38 percent who said he should not be barred from doing so.

Trump's support among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters remains strong, as 75 percent to 23 percent believe that Trump should not be disqualified from seeking the presidency if he is criminally charged.

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