A New York grand jury voted to indict former President Donald Trump on Thursday, March 30 on charges involving alleged hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump.
Though other former presidents have faced legal trouble in the past, former New York state legislator Jon Cooper claimed in a viral tweet on March 12 that Trump would be the first former president in U.S. history to be criminally indicted.
Is Donald Trump the first former president to be indicted?
- Jeremi Suri, Ph.D., professor of public affairs and history at The University of Texas at Austin
- The National Archives
- Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum
- Washington Post article from January 2001
- Evening Star newspaper article from September 1908
Yes, Donald Trump is the first former president to be indicted.
WHAT WE FOUND
Donald Trump is the first former president to be criminally indicted in U.S. history, according to Jeremi Suri, Ph.D., a history and public affairs professor at The University of Texas at Austin.
VERIFY was unable to find any federal records of former presidents being indicted, confirming Suri’s assertion. But there are at least two who came close: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
The National Archives released an indictment that was drafted, but never used, against Nixon for charges related to the cover-up of a break-in and wiretap at the Democratic National Committee office. The political scandal, known as Watergate, ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
But Nixon never faced any charges in connection to Watergate. That’s because President Gerald Ford granted Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon” for any crimes, protecting him from prosecution.
Though Nixon was pardoned, other people within his administration were convicted or pleaded guilty and served prison terms.
Clinton also avoided indictment after he lied in a deposition about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky while he was president. He reached a deal with prosecutors, admitting that he gave false testimony under oath, the Washington Post reported in January 2001.
According to the Post, Clinton also reached an agreement with Arkansas authorities to pay $25,000 in fines and have his law license suspended for five years.
Suri said former President Ronald Reagan also came close to indictment for a political scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair, in which his administration sold weapons to Iran to free American hostages held in Lebanon. But Reagan never faced any charges.
While Trump’s indictment marks the first for a former president, there are reports that President Ulysses S. Grant was the first to be arrested while in office.
An archived article published by the Evening Star newspaper in 1908 recounted the story of Grant’s arrest.
In 1872, while Grant was president, he was stopped and arrested in 1872 for speeding through the streets of Washington, D.C. in his horse-drawn carriage, the newspaper reported.
“I am very sorry, Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation, and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest,” former Police Officer William West reportedly told Grant.
Grant paid a $20 bond, which was later forfeited because he didn’t show up for court, the Evening Star reported.