Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme

Trump charged with 34 felony counts in hush money scheme

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump conspired to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments designed to silence allegations he feared would be damaging to his candidacy , New York prosecutors said Tuesday in unsealing a landmark 34-count felony indictment. .

The allegations stemmed from a series of checks Trump or his company wrote to his lawyer and fixer during the presidential campaign for his role in paying a porn star who claimed an extramarital sex encounter with Trump years ago.

The payments were part of “an illegal scheme to identify and suppress negative information that could have undermined his campaign for president,” Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy said in court. They were made to “protect his candidacy,” Conroy added.

The Manhattan trial, while largely procedural in nature, was nevertheless the first time in US history that a former president has faced a judge in his own criminal prosecution. The indictment is an extraordinary reckoning for Trump after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings unfolded against the backdrop not only of his third campaign for the White House but also against other investigations in Washington and Atlanta that could generate even more fees.

Trump, stony-faced and silent as he walked in and out of the Manhattan courtroom, said “not guilty” in a firm voice as he faced a judge who warned him to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest. . Still, the always taciturn Trump, who for weeks before Tuesday’s indictment had characterized the case against him as political persecution, uttered only about 10 words — though he appeared to be briefly attentive to the District Attorney. of Manhattan, Alvin Bragg.

The next trial date is Dec. 4, though it’s unclear whether Trump will be required to appear.

The broad contours of the case have long been known, but the indictment contains new details about a scheme prosecutors say began months into his 2015 presidential bid, after his famous past collided with his ambitions. presidential. It centers on payments to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who said they had extramarital sex with him years ago, and a Trump Tower janitor who claimed to have a story about a child he claimed was the former president had it out. of marriage.

“It is not just about a payment. There are 34 false statements and business records that concealed criminal conduct,” Bragg told reporters when asked how the three alleged separate payments were connected.

All 34 charges against Trump are related to a series of checks written to Trump’s personal attorney and problem solver, Michael Cohen, to reimburse him for his role in the Daniels settlement. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded in various internal company documents as to a legal holder that prosecutors say did not exist. Cohen testified before the grand jury and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution. Nine of those monthly checks were paid from Trump’s personal accounts, but records about them were kept in the Trump Organization’s data system.

Prosecutors allege that the first instance of Trump directing hush money payments came in the fall of 2015, when a former Trump Tower janitor was trying to sell information about an alleged illegitimate child Trump fathered.

David Pecker, a Trump friend and publisher of the National Enquirer, made a $30,000 payment to the gatekeeper to acquire exclusive rights to the story, pursuant to an agreement to protect Trump during his presidential campaign, according to the indictment. Pecker’s company later determined the janitor’s story was false, but at Cohen’s urging it allegedly enforced janitor confidentiality until after Election Day.

The investigation also concerns six-figure payments made to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he entered politics. Trump denies having sex with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving the payments.

After his indictment, Trump was returning to his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, for a prime-time speech to campaign supporters. At least 500 prominent supporters have been invited, with some of the most pro-Trump Republicans in Congress expected to attend. A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.

The day’s schedule, with its impressive mix of legal and political calendar items, represents the new split-screen reality for Trump as he submits to the humiliating demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an air of defiance and victimization in festive campaign events.

Dressed in his dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed. He arrived at the courthouse in an eight-car motorcade from Trump Tower, communicating in real time his anger at the proceedings.

“Going to Lower Manhattan, to the Courthouse,” he posted on his Truth Social platform. “It seems so SUREL – WOW, they’re going to arrest me. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”

Afterwards, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche told reporters it was a “sad day for the country.”

“You don’t expect this to happen to someone who was president of the United States,” he said.

Trump, who was twice impeached by the House of Representatives but never convicted in the US Senate, is the first former president to face criminal charges. The nation’s 45th commander-in-chief was escorted from Trump Tower to court by the Secret Service.

“He’s strong and ready to go,” Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told The Associated Press. Earlier, Tacopina said in a television interview that the former president would not plead guilty to lesser charges, even if he could settle the case. He also said he didn’t think the case would go to a jury.

New York police said they were bracing for major protests from Trump supporters, who share the former Republican president’s belief that the New York grand jury indictment and three additional pending investigations are politically motivated and intended to undermine the effort. his to retake the White House in 2024. However, reporters often bypassed the protesters.

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Trump, a former reality TV star, has used that narrative to his political advantage, saying he raised more than $8 million in the days since the indictment on allegations of a “witch hunt.” His campaign released a fundraising appeal titled “My Last Email Before Arrest,” and he has repeatedly attacked Bragg, urged supporters to protest and claimed without evidence that the judge presiding over the case “hates me.” – something his lawyer has said he is not. true.

The trial unfolded against a backdrop of tight security in New York, coming more than two years after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a failed attempt to stop congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

The scenes around Trump Tower and the courthouse did not show any major commotion. Police tried to keep protesters supporting the former president and those opposing him separate by confining them to separate sides of a park near the court using metal barricades.


Tucker and Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Jill Colvin, Bobby Caina Calvan, Larry Neumeister, Karen Matthews, Larry Fleisher, Deepti Hajela, Julie Walker, Ted Shaffrey, David R. Martin, Joe Frederick and Robert Bumsted in New York and Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of former President Donald Trump at

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