Former president pleads not guilty to 34 counts in arraignment at New York court

Former president pleads not guilty to 34 counts in arraignment at New York court

Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury on 34 counts of falsifying business records in an unsealed indictment on Tuesday, with prosecutors detailing an alleged years-long scheme to use payments of “money of silence” to suppress damaging information before the 2016 election. .

In a historic, highly choreographed appearance that followed strict security protocols, Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing in a lower Manhattan courtroom, becoming the first former president to face criminal prosecution. He has denied any wrongdoing and said District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is politically motivated in bringing the case.

In a 16-page indictment and accompanying statement of facts, prosecutors said Trump “orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and profit the electoral prospects of the defendant”.

Former President Donald Trump sits with his attorneys inside the courtroom during his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4, 2023, in New York City. Pool/Getty Images

They said the scheme involved three payments made by Trump allies to cover up damaging stories: $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who said Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock; $150,000 to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump; and $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who also claimed an affair. Trump has denied having affairs with both women, and the company that paid the former doorman determined his story was false.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer,” made the payment to Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 election. Prosecutors said Trump illegally disguised his reimbursements to Cohen by classifying them as legal fees.

“The payment records maintained and maintained by the Trump Organization were false New York business records. Indeed, there was no retainer agreement and Attorney A was not paid for legal services performed in 2017,” the statement said. of the facts. referring to Cohen. “The defendant caused the business records of his entities to be falsified in order to mask his and others’ criminal conduct.”

Falsifying business records is usually a misdemeanor under New York law, but can be charged as a felony if done with an “intent to defraud [that] involves an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal its commission.” Prosecutors said Trump’s conduct was intended to violate election laws.

At the end of the hearing, the former president was released and soon boarded a flight home to Florida, where he will deliver remarks to supporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday evening.

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