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Hoosier political, legal experts weigh in on what's next after Trump indictment

The former president will face criminal charges in New York, it was announced Thursday.

INDIANAPOLIS — A grand jury in Manhattan voted Thursday to indict former President Donald Trump.

It's the first time a former president has ever faced criminal charges.

From a legal standpoint, what happens next is straightforward. Trump will face criminal charges in New York. 

From a political standpoint, a criminal indictment of a former president who is again running for the top job isn't clear. 

Political science experts say it's likely to divide the nation deeply down political lines.

"It is unprecedented. But let's face it, much of what Donald Trump did, much of Donald Trump's presidency, much of Donald Trump's conduct is unprecedented," said Steve Sanders, a professor of law at IU Maurer School of Law. 

Sanders said a criminal indictment against a current or former president has never happened before. But he said when it comes to the Constitution and the office of the president, this indictment will have little to no legal impact.

"If this were about conduct he engaged in while he was president and should that be immunized from later prosecution, there might be an issue there. But again, this was conduct he engaged in as a private citizen before he became president. He's now a private citizen. So the fact that he was president really, legally, is and should be neither here nor there," Sanders said. 

But politically, IU political science expert Steven Webster said this indictment will cause waves around the nation and potentially divide the nation politically even further. 

"This is going to be quite striking," Webster said. "We're likely to see a mugshot of a former president of the United States and he'll have his fingerprints taken. So politically, this could have some serious ramifications."

Webster said the indictment will undoubtedly impact our next presidential election in some way, as both sides put together a political playbook on what's ahead. 

“We’re seeing a former president who is running for president again while simultaneously defending himself for criminal charges. We don’t know what that looks like and I suspect his campaign doesn’t know what it’s going to look like," Webster said. 

"It's something they're going to have to figure out if they're going to be successful in winning the Republican nomination again. But this is absolutely going to have consequences for the Republican nomination and if Donald Trump were to win the nomination, this will have serious consequences for a general election," said Webster.

The DA's office confirmed the indictment Thursday, saying they are working with Trump's attorneys on his surrender to the DA's office.  

The indictment remains under seal.

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