Donald Trump became the first former American president to be indicted. He was accused by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney of orchestrating a hush-money scheme to help him win the presidency and then covering it up once he was in the White House.
“There is no crime and it should never have been brought” former US President Donald Trump raged in his first public address after being charged with dozens of offenses. Trump was pictured in court on Tuesday, April 4th in a historic first as the former President pleaded not guilty to 34 charges.
In the Manhattan Court, Trump looked defiant as he left Trump Tower and again a few minutes later, when he arrived at court. He raised a pumped fist and stared straight at the waiting cameras, then minutes later waved outside the court.
Wearing a grim expression, Trump was arrested and pleaded not guilty in New York City to 34 felony counts of falsifying his business records “to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” according to a somewhat novel indictment disclosed after the former president’s history-making arraignment. He denied any wrongdoing.
Trump was only seen briefly outside the district attorney’s office, where he surrendered to authorities and was booked and fingerprinted behind closed doors. His mugshot was not taken, according to two law enforcement officials who could not publicly discuss details of the process and spoke on condition of anonymity.
In an unprecedented case, Trump faces charges including at least one felony offense related to hush money payments to women during his 2016 presidential campaign, to cover allegations he had an extramarital affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump pleaded not guilty to “34 counts of falsifying business records and conspiracy for his alleged role in hush money payments to two women toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign.” Charges also include conspiracy and involve two women.
The indictment charges Trump with 34 separate counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony. A separate document laying out the factual basis for Bragg’s allegations against Trump points to a complicated web of arrangements between Trump, his former lawyer Michael Cohen (who is identified as “Lawyer A”), and David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, the company that publishes the National Enquirer.
Bragg alleges that these three men worked together to identify two women who allegedly had sex with Trump, and to pay them to remain silent. The women are identified as “Woman 1” and “Woman 2” by Bragg, but the first woman appears to be former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and the second appears to be porn actress Stormy Daniels.
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to a federal campaign finance crime arising out of this scheme in 2018, paid $130,000 to Daniels shortly before the 2016 election, in order to secure her silence. According to Bragg, Trump then paid Cohen a total of $420,000 over the course of 2017, much of which was intended to reimburse Cohen for the payment to Daniels.
The actual felony counts arise out of allegedly false entries that Trump made in various business records in order to make the payment to Daniels appear to be ordinary legal expenses paid to Cohen.
Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” according to the charging documents. The 13-page “statement of facts” detailed in plain language how Trump allegedly committed crimes to help him get elected to the White House in 2016.
“From August 2015 to December 2017, the Defendant orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant’s electoral prospects,” the statement of facts says. Prosecutors described a “catch and kill scheme” to suppress negative stories about Trump – “in furtherance of his candidacy for President.”
Pornstar Stormy Daniels poked fun at former President Donald Trump on the day he was arraigned in court. She released a graphic tweet which cannot be published in full. She added later in the tweet: “It’s definitely more fun being under my sexy man instead of under arrest.”
Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said during the hearing that Trump is “absolutely frustrated, upset and believes that there is a great injustice happening” in the courtroom.
Legal analysts vary in their assessments of the strength of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s charges against Trump. Doubts allow some Republican officials to criticize Bragg’s case without defending the former president’s ties to a porn star or any of the other misadventures or falsehoods Trump has accumulated in private or political life.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who twice voted for Trump’s impeachment and says Trump is unfit for office, said in a statement that Bragg “stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda.” Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused Bragg of “attempting to interfere” with the democratic process with “politicized charges.”
The next in-person hearing is scheduled for December 4th, though Trump’s attorneys have vowed to do all they can to stop the case beforehand.
During his speech, he said: “I never thought that anything like this could happen in America. The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.” He said, “Our country is going to hell” and launched attacks on the judge in the case.
Trump was defiant in his speech, ranting about – among other things – his two impeachment trials during his presidency. He went on to call the New York indictment the latest in an “onslaught of fraudulent investigations. This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately,” Trump said.
In a social media post from his plane on his flight home from New York, former President Donald Trump said that Tuesday’s court hearing “was shocking to many in that they had no ‘surprises,’ and therefore, no case. Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!”