- A Manhattan grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on Thursday
- The charges remain sealed, but they come after the grand jury heard evidence related to a secret payment made to Stormy Daniels
- Michigan Democrats pleaded for peace and patience, while Republicans decried the case as “a dark day in American history.”
Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on Thursday, sparking condemnations from political allies in Michigan and beyond and little response from Democratic leaders.
Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that the indictment comes after the grand jury heard evidence about payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 campaign.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed in a public statement that Trump’s attorneys have been contacted for arraignment on an indictment that remains under seal. Trump becomes the first U.S. president to be charged with a crime.
The news was met mostly with silence or restraint from Michigan Democrats — who took control of the Legislature and governor’s office for the first time in decades in the 2022 elections — and condemnation from state Republicans long allied with Trump.
“Our government is increasingly being weaponized against citizens,” said Kristina Karamo, who earned Trump’s endorsement as the Republican Secretary of State nominee after claiming she witnessed fraud in the 2020 election and in February was chosen to chair the Michigan Republican Party.
“Today it will be President Trump,” Karamo posted to Twitter, “tomorrow it will be you.”
Our government is increasingly being weaponized against citizens. Today it will be President Trump, tomorrow it will be you.— Kristina Karamo (@KristinaKaramo) March 30, 2023
The Michigan GOP issued a similar statement, calling Thursday “a dark day in American history.”
Ronna McDaniel, national GOP chairwoman and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, called the move a “blatant abuse of power from a DA focused on political vengeance” in a tweet. “When our justice system is weaponized as a political tool, it endangers all of us,” McDaniel said.
Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said she will not be commenting and instead “will defer to the Manhattan DA’s office.”
Most of Michigan’s other top statewide officials were quiet as news of the criminal indictment broke. Attorney General Dana Nessel, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and legislative leaders in both parties had not publicly commented on the matter or responded to Bridge Michigan requests as of 8 p.m. Thursday evening.
The Michigan Democratic Party declined to comment.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from the 6th District, urged people to remain calm in a tweet in the hours after the indictment was announced. Trump had called for protests last week as charges appeared imminent, but few did so.
“All Americans deserve and are entitled to equal justice under the law and I implore everyone to remain calm and peaceful,” Dingell wrote. “We are a nation of laws and due process, and now our judicial system will do its job.”
All Americans deserve and are entitled to equal justice under the law and I implore everyone to remain calm and peaceful. We are a nation of laws and due process, and now our judicial system will do its job.— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) March 30, 2023
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-8th District, echoed the sentiment in an emailed statement.
“In America, no one is above the law, no matter your power, prestige or position,” Kildee said. “The former president, like all Americans, deserves due process and should be considered innocent until proven guilty.”
Trump campaigned heavily in Michigan and other Midwest states in 2016 and narrowly won the state, contributing to his victory over then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, Trump and his political allies targeted the election process in Michigan and other battleground states with claims that fraud contributed to his loss to President Joe Biden, claims that have been repeatedly debunked by courts, auditors and investigators.
Local Democratic party officials who spoke to Bridge Thursday called the indictment evidence that in a democracy, not even the country’s highest public official is above the law.
“If there’s some poor bloke on the street corner somewhere that did something wrong, they’re gonna get arrested and punished if they’re guilty,” said Barb Conley, chair of the Congressional District 1 Democratic Party and co-chair of the Leelanau County party. “So Trump is no different.”
But Conley said she’s not celebrating the indictment. Instead, she’s worried about potential protests and violence.
While only small groups of people responded to Trump’s calls to protest last week, some cities — including New York — are increasing security. Congressional leaders, including Republican Speaker of the U.S. House Kevin McCarthy, have urged people not to protest.
The possibility of protests was one area of agreement between local Republican and Democratic leaders reacting to news of the indictment.
Parker Fairbairn, the 24-year-old Republican Party chair from Emmet County, said he expects public demonstrations from some Trump supporters. But personally, he was calm and unsurprised by the news Thursday.
“It was kind of expected,” he said.
Fairbairn said he won’t speculate on whether the former president committed a crime. But he said the timing of the indictment as Trump entertains a presidential bid “seems like a political stunt.”
“I think it shows our justice system can become corrupt,” he said, pointing to Manhattan district attorney Bragg’s ties to Democratic mega donor George Soros.
Bragg has no apparent direct ties to Soros, though Soros donated to a liberal group that donated to the campaigns of progressive Democratic prosecutors, including Bragg.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican from Michigan’s 5th District, was one of the first top Michigan officials to respond to the news, calling Bragg an activist who liked “to create their own soft-on-crime laws, fueling the crime wave.
Activist prosecutors like Alvin Bragg try to create their own soft-on-crime laws, fueling the crime wave. It’s disgraceful that violent crime is acceptable to Bragg, but he’s willing to overreach with prosecutorial discretion and go after rivals.
@HouseGOP will not tolerate it.— Rep. Tim Walberg (@RepWalberg) March 30, 2023
“It’s disgraceful that violent crime is acceptable to Bragg, but he’s willing to overreach with prosecutorial discretion and go after rivals,” Walberg continued.
Nationally, Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who served on the House Committee on the Judiciary and also the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, called the indictment of a former president “unprecedented” in a Tweet.
He added: “But so too is the unlawful conduct in which Trump has been engaged.
“A nation of laws must hold the rich and powerful accountable, even when they hold high office.”
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, a potential challenger to Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination who will be in Michigan next week for the Midland GOP breakfast, said his state will not extradite the former president. Trump lives at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach County.
Bragg, Desantis said, “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.”
Conley, the Leelanau County Democrat, said she believes the former president committed crimes while in office. But the Stormy Daniels allegations don’t top her list.
“I think some of the others are more serious, particularly the ones about January 6, and the efforts to overthrow a legitimate election,” she said. “To me, those are much more weighty things.”