Former President Donald Trump, his aides and advisers were caught off guard Thursday evening when news broke that the grand jury investigating Trump’s role in the $130,000 hush money payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels voted to indict him, according to multiple reports.
Many had been convinced that there would be no decision from the grand jury for weeks, possibly until the end of April after reports this week indicated that the Manhattan grand jury was expected to take a previously scheduled hiatus in the upcoming month.
“It was a surprise to everybody,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser who is not working on the 2024 presidential campaign, told the Washington Post.
Some of Trump’s lawyers were even preparing to take a few days off, not expecting any movement on the case for several weeks, according to sources who talked to the Post.
The indictment is still under seal and the specifics still unknown, but it is expected to involve the hush money payments. CNN has reported it contains “more than 30 counts related to business fraud.”
Over the last few weeks, Trump’s mood has ranged from optimism and bravado to anxiety about his future, according to the New York Times. But last night at his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago, Trump was angry but focused on the political implications of the jury’s decision, sources told the Times.
Reports indicate that he was eager to project confidence amid the news and was seen having a public dinner with his wife Melania and her parents at the club at Mar-a-Lago, as local police were stationed outside the front gate of the residence.
But despite his best efforts to look unbothered, the former president responded to his indictment with an aggressive statement, calling the grand jury’s decision “political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.”
This is a complete 180 from Trump’s sentiment towards the grand jury earlier this week, when he shared an all caps appreciation post, saying he has gained respect for the grand jury investigating him because they were not giving into the “witch hunt” that he believes the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is pursuing against him.
In his Thursday night statement, Trump also blamed it all on the usual suspects: the Democrats who are all out to get him.
“The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable,” he wrote. “Indicting a completely innocent person.”
Meanwhile, Trump team — as they usually do amid Trumpworld chaos — hit the ground running on fundraising efforts and sent out an email titled, “BREAKING: PRESIDENT TRUMP INDICTED,” asking his supporters to donate at least $24 to “defend our movement from the never-ending witch hunts.”
His team also dropped new merch, releasing $47 indictment T-Shirts that read, “I stand with Trump.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Washington Post that he spoke with Trump for a few minutes after the news broke and that the former president was “upset and disappointed” but also “very calm.”
“They are using the law as a weapon against me,” Trump told Graham.
Graham said he advised him to stay calm and Trump seemed to agree.
“He thinks most people will see it as a weaponization of the law,” Graham added. “From a political point of view, it’s going to solidify Trump’s standing with the Republican Party.”
Trump spoke to at least one more person Thursday night: ABC News’ John Santucci.
“It’s an attack on our country,” Trump said of his indictment to Santucci. “It’s political persecution. They’re trying to impact an election.”
But when Santucci asked if he planned to turn himself in, Trump fled the scene. “You take care, John,” he said, and hung up.