Former President Donald Trump and his inner circle were taken aback when a grand jury in New York handed down an indictment of the former president, according to Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina.
Tacopina said during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday that he and his client were both “shocked” after learning that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation of Trump’s alleged role in hush money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels had led to a criminal indictment, the first in history for a current or former U.S. president.
“He was shocked,” Tacopina said. “You know, we were really … I was shocked … In my 33 years in this business, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney, I’ve never been more angry … today, the rule of law in the United States of America died.”
Trump’s former personal attorney and current critic Michael Cohen, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to campaign finance and tax charges related to the Daniels payments, also expressed surprise at the grand jury’s decision.
“To be honest with you, I had no idea that it was dropping today,” Cohen said during a CNN interview. “I was surprised. In fact, if you start to listen to all of the talking heads that are out there, these marvelous pundits that create scenarios, at the end of the day … they’ve been wrong.”
Cohen went on to say that he suspected Trump was “seething” about the indictment because his team had not been able to prevent him from facing criminal charges.
“These are not things that Donald Trump ever thought in his entire life, nor I for that matter, that he would ever be confronted with,” said Cohen. “He’s seething right now because of all of the mistakes that so many people that were around him have made.”
“Donald is not a person who likes to accept accountability,” he added. “It has to be on somebody else, always. Unfortunately, he’s the one that’s going on Tuesday to get fingerprinted and mug-shotted.”
Bragg’s office confirmed that negotiations for Trump’s surrender were ongoing but a date for the arraignment had not been finalized. Earlier, Trump lawyer Susan R. Necheles told The New York Times that the arraignment was expected to be set for Tuesday.
Trump, who is also facing potential criminal charges in Georgia and at the federal level, has denied any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of a Democratic Party “witch hunt.” He reacted to his indictment with fury on Thursday.
Trump claimed that “Radical Left Democrats” were responsible for the impending charges, saying in a statement that “they’ve done the unthinkable—indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference.”
“These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED [sic] the 45th President of the United States of America, and the leading Republican Candidate, by far, for the 2024 Nomination for President,” Trump added on Truth Social.
“THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE,” he continued. “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!”
In addition to Tacopina’s comments, there were other indications that the former president was likely taken off guard by the indictment on Thursday.
On Wednesday, he praised the grand jury while claiming that it had put Bragg’s investigation on “hold” due to the panel seemingly going quiet earlier in the week. His prediction that the grand jury would not vote to indict him would be proven wrong one day later.
“I have gained such respect for this grand jury, & perhaps even the grand jury system as a whole,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “The grand jury is saying, hold on … We are not going to vote against a preponderance of evidence or against large numbers of legal scholars all saying there is no case here.”
Newsweek has reached out via email to the office of Trump for additional comment.