Donald Trump attended a party at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday night with his wife Melania by his side, hours after learning he was to be criminally charged over covering up hush money payments to a porn star.
The 76-year-old – who is set to become the first former president to face criminal charges – was pictured in a suit and tie beaming as Melania, 52, stood beside him in a red dress.
The specific charges against Trump are not yet known as the indictment remains under seal, but CNN reported that the former president faced more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
Trump and his wife Melania were captured just hours after a grand jury recommended that he be indicted over a $130,000 hush money payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels.
A photo of the couple was posted to Twitter on Thursday evening by Gina Loudon, a conservative media commentator, who tweeted: ‘Beautiful evening here at the gorgeous Mar a Lago!’
‘Our REAL First Couple enveloped in the love of their friends and most loyal!’
She then added: ‘(Sorry to disappoint, corporate media. Actually not. Screw you! This is a happiness you will never know, sadly).’
Donald and Melania Trump are seen on Thursday evening at an event at Mar-a-Lago, their Florida home
The Trumps can be seen dining among Mar-a-Lago guests (left, with their backs to the camera): Melania’s red dress is visible, as is the former president’s distinctive hair
The appearance came as the Trump team was working out how to handle the news – which came as a shock. They had not expected a decision for several weeks, given announcements about the Manhattan grand jury’s schedule.
Trump supporters were dispatched to news channels to argue that the case was political persecution, with Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer who represented Trump in his first impeachment, arguing that a fair trial was impossible in Manhattan. He said the trial should be moved from the Democrat stronghold to Staten Island – the only one of the five boroughs of New York City to vote Republican.
The news also caused consternation in Washington DC, according to a report. The New York Times said that some in the Justice Department were concerned that the charges could overshadow and perhaps complicate their own cases, which are felt to be stronger.
The Justice Department has a special counsel, Jack Smith, investigating efforts to overturn the election, and the handling of Mar-a-Lago classified documents.
It is unclear when those investigations will conclude.
Trump’s lawyer has said he will travel to Manhattan to be arraigned on Tuesday, when he could face as many as 30 charges related to business fraud.
The former president huddled with lawyers and advisers at his Mar-a-Lago home on Thursday evening after news broke that a Manhattan jury had voted to indict him over a $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former president Donald Trump over hush money paid to pornstar Stormy Daniels
Trump played nine holes of golf at his West Palm Beach club on Thursday. He is pictured here a day earlier with Natalie Harp, who helps run his Truth Social media account
Trump blasted the indictment and said Democrats would regret persecuting an innocent man when his supporters dumped them out of office.
In the meantime, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said it was in touch with Trump’s lawyers to arrange his surrender in New York.
A source told DailyMail.com that the head of Trump’s security detail recently traveled to Manhattan to review arrangements and that the former president would likely be formally arrested next week.
That could be as soon as Tuesday, Susan Necheles, one of his lawyers, told the New York Times.
Although the indictment is sealed for now, CNN reported that it contained more than 30 criminal charges.
‘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,’ Trump said in an emailed statement.
‘Never before in our nation’s history has this been done.’
The indictment marks the end of a five-year investigation into cash paid to the adult movie star in 2016, allegedly to buy her silence about their affair.
And it takes the country into uncharted political and legal territory. Although being charged with a crime would not disqualify him from running for office, it does mean a leading 2024 candidate faces the humiliation of arrest.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said talks had begun to bring Trump to New York.
‘This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,’ they said.
Earlier, Trump played nine holes of golf at his Florida club as usual on Thursday morning. But the 76-year-old did not stay for lunch even though his usual table was reserved.
A source close to his Mar-a-Lago home said the Trump team was ready with statements and social media messaging as soon as the indictment dropped.
‘We had a plan in place and the plan was executed,’ he said. ‘Getting surrogates out, getting content out.’
Within minutes his sons Don Jr and Eric were livecasting or tweeting, fundraising appeals followed and an emailed statement arrived from Trump himself in inboxes soon after.
Trump is expected to travel voluntarily to New York to be arrested. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted that he would not help any effort to extradite the former president
A grand jury has been hearing evidence about allegations that Donald Trump paid $130,000 to adult movie star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence over their affair
Trump railed against the indictment in an emailed statement. He said this ‘Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden’ and predicted Democrats will be voted out of office
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg leaving his office yesterday evening. A spokesperson said the office had contacted Trump’s lawyers to begin the process of bringing him to Manhattan
‘I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,’ said Trump, before criticizing the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
‘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 is leading most polls of Republican voters for the party nomination. But the Manhattan case is just one of the legal obstacles he faces, including probes into efforts to overthrow the result of the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Many leading legal scholars believe the hush money case may be the weakest of the lot.
Trump and his allies had even floated the idea that the case was being dropped after a series of delays to grand jury hearings.
As a result, the indictment landed out of the blue on Thursday evening.
Trump also posted to Truth Social, sharing his anger at his impending arraignment
Meanwhile it also emerged on Thursday New York prosecutors were looking to charge Trump over a $150,000 payment made to another former Playboy model
A month long Manhattan grand jury hiatus had led Trump and his allies to float the idea that the DA was preparing to drop the hush money case against the former president
It leaves a city braced for protests. All uniformed members of the New York Police Department need to be ‘prepared for deployment,’ according to memo obtained by the New York Times.
His lawyers, Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina, promised to fight the ‘political prosecution’ in court. ‘President Trump has been indicted. He did not commit any crime,’ they said.
Although he is the first former president to be criminally charged, he is not the first presidential candidate to be criminally charged. Eugene Debs, convicted of sedition and jailed for his opposition to World War One, ran for president five times.
It marks a victory for the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
Bragg’s office has been probing a $130,000 hush money payment made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, to Daniels, 44, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Trump camp was quick to blast the indictment on Thursday night, with Eric Trump telling DailyMail.com it was ‘the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent’.
Florida Governor and 2024 rival Ron DeSantis offered a partial lifeline on Thursday, saying he would try to thwart the extradition of the former president from his state.
He described the prosecution as ‘unAmerican.’
‘Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,’ he said in a tweet, referring to the fact that Alvin Bragg’s election campaign was backed by billionaire activist George Soros.
Meanwhile it also emerged on Thursday New York prosecutors were looking to charge Trump over a $150,000 payment made to another former Playboy model.
Bragg’s team has questioned grand jury witnesses about cash given to Karen McDougal, who was Playboy magazine ‘Playmate of the Year’ in 1998.
Eric Trump told DailyMail.com: ‘This is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.
‘They are ruthlessly attacking my father because he dared challenge the political elite. This is Exhibit A to the decline of American Law.’
Natalie Harp (left) was seen on the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Wednesday with the former president on Wednesday. She was pictured showing Donald Trump something on her phone
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is one of at least 75 liberal district attorneys who have received millions in funding from George Soros-backed political action committees
In 2017 former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations, and he told a court in Manhattan that Trump had directed him to make the payments
The former president has always denied having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
But the case dogged him through his time in office after triggering a federal investigation.
In 2017 Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including tax evasion, fraud and campaign finance violations, and he told a court in Manhattan that Trump had directed him to make the payments.
But the investigation disappeared from the headlines as other legal cases focused on Trump’s family business and his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, riot hog the spotlight. But it never went away.
Although the Justice Department decided not to charge Trump and the Federal Election Commission was deadlocked over taking action over claims that the payment amounted to an undeclared campaign contribution, the Manhattan DA was still looking at the case.
And it took on fresh momentum early in 2023 when Cohen met with investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and it emerged that a grand jury was hearing evidence.
Such hearings are conducted in secret. But one theory was that it was probing Trump for falsifying business records in connection with the payment, by allegedly misreporting a campaign donation as a legal fees.
Trump used a social media post on Saturday to call on his supporters to protest as he claimed he expects to be arrested as early as Tuesday. Aides say they do not know the timing
The New York Young Republicans Club is holding a protest on Monday evening. ‘Join us in peaceful protest of Alvin Bragg’s heinous attack on President Donald J. Trump … ‘ it says
That amounts to a misdemeanor. But that rises to a felony if it is done in conjunction with a second crime, such as a campaign finance violation.
Then in March Bragg’s office asked Trump to testify, in the clearest sign yet that he could be indicted.
The former president confirmed as much in a social media post at the weekend, calling on supporters to rise up in protest.
‘The far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,’ he posted on his Truth Social platform. ‘Protest, take our nation back!’
The final act was reportedly the repeat testimony of Trump lawyer Robert Costello on Monday.
He was asked to appear by the former president’s legal team because he may have evidence that contradicted Cohen’s account. Privately Trump’s allies are confident that the case has little substance.
New York Police Department staff install barricades around the Lower Manhattan court complex ahead of former President Donald Trump’s anticipated indictment
An insider told DailyMail.com that it strengthens him politically, rallying the base in his support. ‘It is very obvious that this is helpful,’ he said.
He added that to get the second charge, elevating the case to a felony, prosecutors would have to show that Trump wanted to cover up an affair to help his campaign, even though the business mogul’s love life had been frontpage news in New York for decades.
‘Of course no one wants to be indicted, but it is helpful politically and legally it’s not even that much of a threat because the case is so weak and looks nakedly political,’ added the source.
Legal experts have also weighed in on the case’s failings.
‘Although it may be politically popular, the case is legally pathetic,’ said Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professof of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University in a column for The Hill.
‘Bragg is struggling to twist state laws to effectively prosecute a federal case long ago rejected by the Justice Department against Trump over his payment of @hush money@ to former stripper Stormy Daniels.
‘In 2018 (yes, that is how long this theory has been around), I wrote how difficult such a federal case would be under existing election laws. Now, six years later, the same theory may be shoehorned into a state claim.’
Meanwhile on Thursday it emerged Manhattan DA Bragg’s team has questioned grand jury witnesses about cash given to Karen McDougal, who was Playboy magazine ‘Playmate of the Year’ in 1998.
McDougal claims she had a ten-month affair with Trump which began in 2006. Trump’s office released a statement on Thursday branding the development a ‘hoax’.
Evidence about payments to McDougal could either be used to bring new charges or establish a ‘pattern of behavior’ for the Daniels case, sources told the Wall Street Journal which revealed the development.
A spokesman for Trump said: ‘It is sad to see radical Democrats and their partners in the media try to resurrect a dead witch hunt.
‘Just like with every other hoax that President Trump has been targeted with, there is no crime, except for election interference through weaponization of our justice system against President Trump and his supporters.’
Bragg’s office and McDougal’s lawyer hadn’t commented on the latest development on Thursday afternoon.
American Media Inc, the owner of the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal in 2016 for exclusive rights to the story about her alleged affair with Trump, which he denies. But the purchase was a ‘catch and kill’ tactic to prevent the story being made public.
Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (far right) is shown trying to hide from the press as he leaves the Lefkowitz State Office Building on Monday after giving testimony
The Federal Election Commission later ruled that the company and its former president, David Pecker, struck the deal with Trump officials in order to suppress the story and ‘prevent it from influencing the election’.
The FEC ruling detailed how Pecker and AMI met with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to help make negative stories about Trump and his relationships go away.
And it concluded that AMI ‘coordinated’ with the Trump campaign in paying $150,000 to McDougal. Pecker gave evidence to the Trump grand jury on Monday.
Meet Trump’s VERY glamorous new assistant – who credits Donald with saving her LIFE after she contracted cancer: Natalie Harp quit hosting role at conservative One America Network to join ex-president’s communications team
Donald Trump’s glamorous assistant left her hosting job at the conservative One America Network to take a plum role in the former president’s communications team.
Natalie Harp, 31, was the second OAN employee to jump ship for Trump’s team – after Christina Bobb left a year ago – and took up the job in March 2022, having quit as host of The Real Story.
The young blonde comes from a devout Christian family and recently tragically lost her father, Dr Robert Harp, an esteemed and highly-respected entrepreneur and executive at the Biola University in Los Angeles.
Harp is often seen accompanying the 2024 presidential candidate, 76, on his daily golfing trips, riding in her own golf cart that is specially equipped with a laptop and computer so she can readily show Trump positive stories about himself.
On Wednesday, the pair were seen cruising around Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where Harp was seen wearing a chic pink tennis outfit with a black skirt and skintight hot pink top with a matching hat. She accessorized with a comfortable pair of white tennis shoes.
She often rides in her own golf cart that is specially equipped with a laptop and computer so she can readily show Trump positive stories about himself
Natalie Harp, pictured with Donald Trump in 2019 at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, credits a law signed by the former president for helping her beat bone cancer
‘I’m not dying from cancer any more thanks to President Trump, I’m living with cancer,’ Harp said in 2019 after claiming the Right to Try law allowed her to seek new bone cancer treatment
At one point during their outing, she was seen pulling him over to show him something on her phone after climbing up a small hill to get to his own cart.
Harp’s links to Trump go back several years – and in 2019 she credited a healthcare policy introduced by the then-President for saving her life as she battle bone cancer.
She said the Right to Try law, signed by Trump in 2018, allowed her to seek an effective treatment for her Stage 2 bone cancer after others had failed. Harp was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and tried chemotherapy twice unsuccessfully before finding ‘another oncologist who was willing to try a different approach.’
‘I’m not dying from cancer any more thanks to President Trump, I’m living with cancer,’ Harp said in 2019.
After forging a successful career at OAN – where he segments taking aim at Democrat policies were often peppered references to her faith – Harp was poached by Trump. The former president was likely also taken by her regular tweets praising him and sharing his regular statements, including claims the election was stolen.
The 31-year-old is now often seen by the former president’s side and runs his social media accounts. Harp has a desk outside of Trump’s office and is readily available to follow him where he needs to go.
‘She is indicative of the people around him who just love him,’ one advisor told the Washington Post in December. ‘Love him too much.’
Harp said: ‘Like other staffers, I do spend time with him. He is extremely popular with the people, I see that by being with him.’
Harp said she was able to get effective treatment for stage 2 bone cancer after Trump signed the Right to Try law. After a career as an anchor at OAN, she joined Trump’s team in March 2022
Harp, who comes from a devout Christian family, was known on OAN for her segments that were critical of President Joe Biden. She also often made references to her Christian faith
Harp is the daughter of the late Dr Robert Harp and his wife, Jill. Her parents were married for 37 years before Dr Harp passed away on July 17, 2020. Harp shared a rare personal post to her social media channels following his death, posting a tribute to Dr Harp written by her mom
Harp also spoke about her cancer battle at the 2020 Republican National Convention in a speech she later pinned to the top of her Twitter page.
‘When I failed the chemotherapies that were on the market, no one wanted me in their clinical trials. They didn’t give me the right to try experimental treatments, Mr. President. You did, and without you, I’d have died waiting for them to be approved,’ she said at the time.
Harp is the daughter of the late Dr Robert Harp and his wife, Jill. Her parents were married for 37 years before Dr Harp passed away on July 17, 2020
She claimed she was able to get treatment under the Right to Try law – which Trump signed into law in 2018 – that allows patients to apply to use experimental drugs that have not been FDA-approved.
The claim that the law saved Harp’s life raised eyebrows among some medical experts. Harp said she used an ‘an FDA-approved immunotherapy drug for an unapproved use.’
Harp is the daughter of the late Dr Robert Harp and his wife, Jill. Her parents were married for 37 years before Dr Harp passed away on July 17, 2020.
Most of Harp’s online presence is dedicated to her professional work, but in August 2020 she shared a moving tribute to her father which was written by her mom.
In an online post that referred at length to the family’s faith, Jill wrote: ‘Today I honor my loving and faithful husband—and thank God for the 37 years we shared together as husband and wife on earth—as I count the days to the eternity I will share with my soulmate forever. As I inscribed on Bob’s wedding band: Our love is eternal.’
Dr Harp was the Executive Director in the Office of Innovation at Biola University, a private, evangelical Christian institution.
Harp has her own golf buggie that serves as a mobile office. She regularly follows Trump while he plays gold at Mar-a-Lago and shares the latest news about him
Harp is often seen accompanying the 2024 presidential candidate, 76, on his daily golfing trips, riding in her own golf cart that is specially equipped with a laptop and computer so she can readily show Trump positive stories about himself
Harp (pictured on Wednesday), who was diagnosed with Stage 2 bone cancer in 2015, had tried chemotherapy twice unsuccessfully before finding ‘another oncologist who was willing to try a different approach’
Harp (pictured on Wednesday), who originally hails from California, graduated from Liberty University – a Christian school – with a business degree in 2015.
Harp was seen wearing a chic pink tennis outfit with a black skirt and skintight hot pink top with a matching hat. She accessorized with a comfortable pair of white tennis shoes for the occasion and her phone
Harp, who originally hails from California, graduated from Liberty University – a Christian school – with a business degree in 2015.
She claimed the school’s coursework helped her challenge her and develop her as a Christian woman, the school said.
‘What I especially appreciate about Liberty’s vision is that every field of knowledge is treated as a mission field — whether in education, business, or politics. Doing God’s work is not limited to ministry in churches or foreign countries but deep in the heart of our own neighborhoods — and yes, even the DC Swamp,’ she said.
Harp also has a brother, Preston Harp, who describes himself on Facebook as a ‘musician, traveler, news archiver, independent researcher/investigative journalist, internationalist’.
Preston is vocal about his support for Palestine and frequently shares criticisms of Israel to his profile.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk