March 31, 2023 Trump indictment news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, April 1, 2023
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7:18 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Trump was initially asked to surrender in New York today, his lawyer says

From CNN's Paula Reid


Former President Donald Trump was initially asked to turn himself in to authorities in New York today — the day after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him, his defense lawyer Joe Tacopina says.

Tacopina says he's surprised by the timing of the indictment and that more time is needed, as the Secret Service that protects the former president needs to coordinate his surrender in New York.

6:51 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

How the potential 2024 GOP field is responding to Trump's indictment

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

The potential 2024 Republican primary field quickly coalesced on Thursday around a strategy for responding to former President Donald Trump’s indictment: Attack Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor, but stop short of praising Trump.

If the news of the former president facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud was unprecedented, the reaction from his possible GOP rivals was, in large part, familiar. Rather than risk the backlash from base voters loyal to Trump, ambitious Republicans zeroed in on a liberal foe. It’s a tactic that underscores the former president’s hold over the Republican Party – even when under indictment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely viewed as Trump’s most formidable potential Republican opponent, did not mention the former president in his response, instead going after “the Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney” – a reference to the billionaire liberal donor George Soros often at the center of conservative conspiracy theories.

“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” DeSantis tweeted. “The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”

DeSantis also reiterated that he would not “assist in an extradition request” for Trump, a Florida resident. Trump is expected to appear in court on Tuesday in New York, where he had lived most of his life.

Former Vice President Mike Pence responds to Wolf Blitzer.
Former Vice President Mike Pence responds to Wolf Blitzer. (John Nowak/CNN)

Former Vice President Mike Pence, for years one of Trump’s most ardent defenders before offering some measured criticism after the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol, called the indictment of his former boss “an outrage” and suggested that Bragg was politically motivated.

Pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who noted that a grand jury voted to charge Trump, Pence doubled down.

“But when you have an attorney general in New York, a Manhattan DA, that targeted one particular American in their campaigns, I think that offends the notion of the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe in fairness, who believe in equal treatment before the law,” he told Blitzer in an interview Thursday evening.

Bragg already had some name recognition among Republicans who sought to tie his progressive positions on criminal justice – in a city they often depict as being besieged by violent crime – to national Democrats like President Joe Biden. In the run-up to the indictment and then in its immediate aftermath, even those Republicans who have been more willing to criticize Trump denounced Bragg’s investigation as a political stunt or an abuse of power.

Read more here.

8:37 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

A recap of the hush money payment scheme that led to the indictment of Donald Trump

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig explains the hush money payment scheme and how it is connected to the indictment of former President Donald Trump.


8:41 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Analysis: Rupert Murdoch’s media machine offers full-throated defense of Trump after grand jury indictment

Analysis from CNN's Oliver Darcy

Rupert Murdoch attends the US Open final in September 2017.
Rupert Murdoch attends the US Open final in September 2017. (Mike Segar/Reuters/FILE)

The unprecedented news of former President Donald Trump's indictment sent convulsions through the media landscape, with outlets like CNN quickly shifting into breaking news mode and devoting hours of programming to wall-to-wall coverage on the major development.

But on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, which had given the former president the cold shoulder since the January 6 attack, the network quickly pivoted into a stance reminiscent of years past: defending Trump at any cost and portraying the legal system as a deep-state, corrupt force in American society.

“Third world tactics.”

“Police state.”

“Political persecution and election interference.”

That’s just a tiny taste of some of the extreme rhetoric that aired Thursday night on Fox News, where Murdoch’s stable of right-wing hosts and commentators painted an ugly portrait of America, one in which supposedly George Soros-controlled prosecutors target conservatives in an unjust manner for the sole purpose of destroying opponents of the Democratic Party.

It came despite the relationship between Murdoch and Trump being on the rocks as of late.

Trump bashed Murdoch earlier this month as a “MAGA Hating Globalist RINO” and accused him of “aiding & abetting the DESTRUCTION OF AMERICA.” And, recently revealed messages Murdoch sent in the aftermath of the 2020 election showed that the right-wing media mogul believed that Trump was a danger to the country.

And yet, Murdoch allowed the incendiary pro-Trump rhetoric to grip his network on Thursday night.

Watching Fox News felt like being taken back in time to another era. It was evocative of the days in which hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson assailed Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and the impeachment trials.

If there was any doubt that Fox News might not offer a full-throated defense of Trump today, given the disgraced Republican’s shaky relationship with Murdoch, that has been erased.

And Fox News isn’t the only outlet in Murdoch’s empire rushing to defend Trump. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which is known to echo Murdoch’s personal views, published a piece calling Trump’s indictment a “sad day for the country.” The editorial suggested that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had carried out the action for political purposes.

The New York Post also appeared in Trump’s corner. The outlet’s website prominently featured a story saying Bragg “has a bad case of bias,” among other Trump-friendly articles.

I texted Murdoch on Thursday night asking how one could square his behind-the-scenes rhetoric, brought to light by Dominion Voting Systems’ case against Fox News, with the narrative his outlets were pushing. I didn’t get an answer.

But perhaps the messages released in the Dominion case, showing network leaders were terrified its audience would change the channel over its scrutiny of Trump, can offer us a good clue. He is almost certainly looking after his bottom line.

As Murdoch said, “Everything at stake here.”

8:38 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Trump indictment is an "internal" matter for the US, Kremlin says

The indictment of former US President Donald Trump is an “internal” matter for the United States and not a matter that Russia will comment on, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday during a regular call with journalists. 

"I do not think that this is a topic for any of our comments. These are internal American processes that we do not consider it necessary to comment on in any way," Peskov said. 

5:43 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke about Trump's indictment on CNN. Here's what he said

From CNN staff

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks on CNN.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks on CNN. (John Nowak/CNN)

Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer during a CNN Primetime interview and reacted to the news of the grand jury indictment of Donald Trump. Here's a recap of everything he said:

On the indictment:

"I think the unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage," he said Thursday night.

The indictment appears “for millions of Americans to be nothing more than a political prosecution," he added.

Charging the former president is a "disservice to the country" that will only divide people further, Pence added. "I think the American people will look at this and see it as one more example of the criminalization of politics in this country," he said.

Pence said that while "no one is above the law, including former presidents," he cannot "speak to the merit of this case at all."

On considering to run for president in 2024.

Notably, Pence said while considering the decision to launch a presidential run, the New York grand jury's decision to indict Trump has “no bearing on our decision."

He said for his family it comes down “to our sense of calling" and that he intends to continue to travel around the country and listen to Americans.

On Trump raising the possibility of "death and destruction."

Last week, Trump raised the possibility of “death (and) destruction” if he were indicted. Pence rebuked the comments.

”There’s no excuse for that kind of rhetoric on either side of this debate,” Pence said. “And there's really no reason to be calling for people to be protesting over it as well.”

8:41 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Analysis: Trump’s criminal indictment unleashes a bitter new phase in American politics

Analysis by CNN's  Stephen Collinson

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on March 25 in Waco, Texas.
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on March 25 in Waco, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The first-ever criminal indictment of a former American president creates a uniquely perilous moment for a polarized republic already repeatedly driven to the brink by the endless norm-busting of Donald Trump.

The prosecution of the 45th president – and his attempts to inflame a partisan firestorm to protect himself – are likely to consume America’s already poisoned politics, threaten to rock yet another presidential election and may pose the most critical challenge yet to its system of justice.

It is the latest stunning barrier shattered by the nation’s most unruly president. And it means that after a tumultuous four-year term, a historic two impeachments, an election falsely tainted by Trump’s lies about fraud and a mob attack by his supporters on Congress, a new national nightmare may be ahead.

There is nothing in American history that approaches the tumult of the charging and possible trial and conviction of a former president – especially since Trump and his supporters are already claiming that the indictment represents the weaponized politicization of the justice system.

Given the extreme national political estrangement exacerbated by Trump, this case is likely to leave the country changed however it turns out. There will be fears, for instance, that it will crush one of the last remaining precedents for political restraint and leave future presidents vulnerable to prosecution in a manner more akin to fragile failing states than the world’s most vital democracy. Yet at the same time, if Trump has indeed committed crimes, a failure to pursue him would send a message that the powerful can get away with behavior that ordinary Americans cannot.

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 behavior 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, likely beginning in court on Tuesday after he travels to New York to be arraigned in what will be a high-security spectacle given his past incitement of violence.

Trump insists he is innocent of all allegations, in this case as well as in several others that may pose even greater legal peril, including special counsel investigations into his hoarding of classified documents and his conduct around the 2020 election and a separate Georgia investigation into his bid to steal the election in the swing state.

The ex-president quickly showed he’s ready to drive the country into a deep political crisis as he mounts his defense with wild claims of persecution. He accused Democrats of weaponizing justice to thwart his 2024 White House bid – a claim that threatens to shatter the credibility of the next election in the eyes of millions of his followers and further damage US democracy.

“This is an attack on our country the likes of which has never been seen before,” Trump wrote in block capitals on his Truth Social network. “It is likewise a continuing attack on our once free and fair elections. The USA is now a third world nation, a nation in serious decline. So sad!”

Like all Americans accused of crimes, Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence and his full rights under the Constitution, which he tried to overturn on January, 6, 2021. 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?

The indictment voted by the grand jury remains under seal, so the exact charges and the extent of evidence against him remain unclear. But many legal experts have questioned whether a case possibly alleging fraudulent accounting and subsequent infringements of election law would rise to the magnitude that might justify the nation-shaking act of indicting a former president and frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination. Some observers have warned against a case that might rely heavily on the testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who made the payments to Stormy Daniels and has already served a jail sentence for charges that included lying to Congress.

Even if there is plentiful evidence that makes this a relatively simple sell to a jury, the fame and the power of the defendant means the case will unfold in a court of public opinion. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is under enormous pressure since if he fails to secure a conviction, he will be accused even more than he already is of building a politicized case that could tear gaping new divides in the country.

5:16 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Trump reaches out to GOP leaders and key committee members following indictment

From CNN's Melanie Zanona

Donald Trump has called key allies on Capitol Hill to shore up support in the wake of his indictment, including members of House GOP leadership and lawmakers who serve on the committees that are trying to investigate the Manhattan District’s Attorney Office, according to a senior GOP source familiar with the conversations.

In the phone calls Thursday, which the source described as “check-ins,” the former president told allies he plans to fight the charges and continued to rail against the indictment and District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

5:16 a.m. ET, March 31, 2023

Trump responds to indictment, calling it "political persecution"

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 4 in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 4 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. (Alex Brandon/AP/FILE)

Former President Donald Trump responded Thursday after a grand jury voted to indict him with a statement, calling it "Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history."

"This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats — the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country — have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement. You remember it just like I do: Russia, Russia, Russia; the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine; Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2; the illegal and unconstitutional Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this.

"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. 

"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.

"Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who was hand-picked and funded by George Soros, is a disgrace. 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. The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So our Movement, and our Party — united and strong — will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat Joe Biden, and we are going to throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office so we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Trump also posted on Truth Social saying in all caps that the indictment "is an attack on our country the likes of which has never been seen before. It is likewise a continuing attack on our once free and fair elections."