Trump pleads not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump, the former president and front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 counts of falsifying business records following an investigation into hush money paid to a porn star. .
Dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie, Trump, 76, showed little emotion on his face as he waved to a crowd gathered outside the courthouse as he was driven in a motorcade from his New York residence to the Tower Trump.
Trump, who has called the allegations politically motivated, raised his fist in a gesture to reporters as he left Trump Tower.
Looking somber, Trump said nothing as he walked past police and through a hallway at the courthouse before entering the courtroom for the arraignment.
Former US president Trump, who faced criminal charges, was indicted last week by a Manhattan grand jury in a case stemming from a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. although specific charges have not yet been disclosed.
From his motorcade, Trump posted on social media: “Heading to Lower Manhattan, to the Courthouse. Looks so SUREL – WOW, they’re going to arrest me. Can’t believe this is happening in America.”
Trump was to surrender to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office ahead of a trial before Judge Juan Merchan. In a trial, the defendant hears the charges and may plead guilty. According to a tweet by a New York Times reporter, Trump was fingerprinted but no photograph was taken.
In other social media posts before the indictment, Trump renewed his attacks on Merchan, who last year presided over a trial in which Trump’s real estate company was convicted of tax fraud.
Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, in November announced a bid to retake the presidency in 2024 in an effort to deny Democratic President Joe Biden, who defeated him in 2020, a second term in the House. White.
A photo taken by a photographer in the courtroom showed Trump sitting at the defense table, surrounded by lawyers.
Five photographers were to be admitted to the courtroom before the trial to take pictures for a few minutes. Trump’s lawyers had asked the judge to block any videos, photographs and radio coverage, arguing it would worsen “an already almost circus-like atmosphere”.
The businessman-turned-politician has been a household name for decades in New York, the city where he grew up, built his real estate business and became a celebrity.
On a cool, sunny early spring day in the US’s most populous city, Trump supporters and opponents were separated by barricades erected by police to try to maintain order, although there were some confrontations.
“Let’s keep it civil, folks,” a police officer told them.
Hundreds of Trump supporters, in a park across from the Manhattan courthouse, cheered and blew whistles, outnumbering his opponents. Trump’s critics held signs including one of Trump wearing a striped prison uniform behind bars and another that read: “Block him.”
The White House remained mum on the drama in New York.
“I think the American people should feel reassured that when there’s an ongoing case like this, we’re just not commenting,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
Any trial is at least more than a year away, legal experts said. Being indicted or even convicted does not legally prevent Trump from running for president.
Bragg, a Democrat who led the investigation, was scheduled to hold a news conference after the indictment.
In a social media post, Trump said the Manhattan Criminal Court was a “very unfair place” and asked that the case be moved to the New York borough of Staten Island, which regularly votes Republican.
Trump will return to Florida and deliver remarks from his Mar-a-Lago resort at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday (0015 GMT Wednesday), his office said.
Among the pro-Trump demonstrators was Gina Witcher, 55, of Maryland.
“We think this is a very scary indictment,” Witcher said, accusing Democratic prosecutors of going after conservatives for political reasons.
New Jersey resident Susan Cerbo, 55, wore a cowboy hat with an American flag as she and her sister stood on the steps of a church across from Trump Tower holding a “Trump for President” sign.
“Honestly, he’s only being targeted because he’s a presidential candidate,” Cerbo said. “If you can do it to him with all his money and power, they can do it to any citizen of the United States.”
Manhattan resident Kim Britt, 69, was among the anti-Trump demonstrators.
“If somebody is above the law, then we’re not going to get anywhere,” Britt said, holding a sign that read: “Tick Tock Time’s Up!”
Trump’s lead has widened over rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, conducted after news broke that he would face criminal charges.
About 48% of Republicans say they want Trump to be their party’s presidential nominee, up from 44% last month. Florida’s second-place governor, Ron DeSantis, dropped from 30% to about 19%. More than two-thirds of those polled said they believed Trump had paid Daniels hush money, but half said the allegations were politically motivated.
The Manhattan grand jury that indicted Trump heard evidence about a $130,000 payment to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels has said she was paid to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006.
Trump denies a sexual relationship but has admitted to reimbursing his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for the payment. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified at the Manhattan inquest last month.
Trump faces a separate criminal investigation by a local Democratic prosecutor in Georgia into whether he illegally tried to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. He also faces two US Justice Department investigations led by a special counsel into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.