Former President Trump lashed out on Thursday after he was indicted in an alleged hush money scheme, maintaining his innocence and accusing Democrats and law enforcement officials of “weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent.”

“This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said in a statement. “From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats – the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country – have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”

“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,” he added.

The former president’s comments came within minutes of reports that a grand jury in Manhattan had voted to charge Trump in a scheme to pay hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential bid to cover up an alleged affair. Trump has denied the affair.

The indictment has been expected for weeks. Earlier this month, prosecutors in Manhattan offered Trump and his lawyers the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, signaling that a decision on an indictment was close. 

Since then, Trump has sought to rally his base around the notion that he is the victim of a political witch hunt, rehashing a line that he has used for years both on the campaign trail and in the White House.

Yet the indictment has thrust his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination into unknown territory. He’s the first current or former president to be indicted on criminal charges, and it’s unclear how the matter will play out on the campaign trail. 

Trump sought to case the indictment as a political asset, claiming that the charges would “backfire massively” on both President Biden and Alvin Bragg (D), the Manhattan district attorney whose office is behind the investigation into Trump’s conduct.

“The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it,” Trump said. “So our Movement, and our Party – united and strong – will first defeat Alvin Bragg, and then we will defeat [President] 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!”