Donald Trump on Thursday became the first former president to be indicted in the near-250-year history of the US.

Trump, who leads in polling to be the Republican candidate for president in 2024, was charged by a New York state grand jury following an investigation by Manhattan district prosecutors led by Alvin Bragg.

Trump, 76, has faced a mountain of litigation and several overlapping investigations since he lost in the 2020 presidential election. The Manhattan criminal charges may yet be only the first in a series of cases against him.

The former president is set to be arraigned in court on Tuesday. “We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” his lawyers said.

What is Trump accused of in the Manhattan case?

In the run-up to the 2016 election, Trump paid $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged affair in 2006. The payment was made through Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Another $150,000 payment was made to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, by the National Enquirer tabloid, also as hush money for an alleged affair with Trump. Cohen also facilitated that payment.

Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to federal charges relating to the payments and other crimes. The basis of Cohen’s crime in relation to the Daniels pay-off was that the payment, later reimbursed by Trump, constituted an illegally large contribution in-kind to Trump’s presidential campaign.

The basis of the charges against Trump is not yet clear. But it may lie in the way that the Trump Organization accounted for the payment to Daniels. The monies were listed as “legal expenses”, the federal case against Cohen showed.

Falsifying business records is a crime under New York state law.

What is the justice department investigating?

Two potential cases arise from a federal probe led by Jack Smith, a prosecutor appointed by the US Department of Justice. As special counsel, he oversees investigations into Trump’s handling of classified documents and Trump’s possible liability in relation to the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol building.

Classified documents were seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort during a search in August 2022. Trump is alleged to have unlawfully removed restricted documents during his time in the White House, then obstructed attempts to recover the classified files after he left office.

A lawyer for Trump was earlier this month ordered by an appeals court to turn over evidence to Smith’s team.

The question in the January 6 investigation is whether Trump has any culpability for the assault on Congress that day after gathering his supporters in Washington in the wake of his 2020 election defeat.

A congressional committee, primarily staffed with Democrats, found that Trump had engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, including by stopping the certification proceedings in Congress.

One key figure in those events is Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president who had a constitutional role in the election certification on January 6 as president of the Senate.

A judge this week said Pence must testify about his conversations with Trump in the lead-up to January 6, which could prove pivotal to establishing Trump’s state of mind in any potential criminal case.

What are the other cases?

Trump also faces another state investigation, this time in Georgia, which was one of the key states that Biden won in the 2020 presidential election.

The closely fought race in Georgia was at the centre of Trump’s efforts to overturn the result of the election.

The most prominent aspect of those efforts was a call from Trump to Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. Trump urged the Republican state official to “find” enough votes for him to win the state.

Raffensperger rejected the request, and was re-elected last year despite standing up to Trump.

A special grand jury was convened in 2022 to investigate the events. Portions of its report were released earlier this year. It is not known yet whether the prosecutor leading the case, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, will bring criminal charges.

What impact does a conviction have on Trump’s presidential bid?

In one sense, possibly nothing. The qualifications for US presidential candidates are set out in the Constitution and they say nothing about excluding convicts from running for the highest office in the land.

As a natural-born citizen who is older than 35 years old and has been a resident in the US for more than 14 years, Trump would be as eligible in 2024 as he was in 2016 and 2020.

The constitutional outcome of the clash between a potential jail sentence and Trump being duly elected president by the people is highly uncertain.

But politically, the charges are set to pour fuel on to the fire of Trump’s re-election bid. He has been using the criminal investigations against him as a rallying point for his base, and remains the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

After news of the charges on Thursday, Trump sought to rile up his supporters with a new battle cry: “They’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you — I’m just standing in the way!”

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