On Tuesday 4 April, afternoon in Manhattan criminal court, former President Donald Trump entered a not-guilty plea to 34 counts of felony criminal charges related to fabricating corporate documents.
On Tuesday, Trump turned himself in and was arrested; later that day, he had a historic and unusual court appearance in which he was arraigned and informed for the first time of the charges against him. While the regular nature of the arraignment, Trump’s legal battle against the allegations is likely to overshadow his 2024 presidential campaign.
Prosecutors stated that Trump attempted to sabotage the legitimacy of the 2016 election by paying off women who claimed they had affairs with him as part of a hush money operation. He has refuted the rumors.
Prosecutors claim that Trump conspired with others to cover up damaging information about his campaign and even authorized an illegal payment of $130,000 to a third party to do so.
To conceal criminal conduct that withheld negative facts from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election, Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently manipulated New York company records,” according to the court filings.
Trump was back in Florida shortly after his arraignment. Trump staged a rally at his Mar-a-Lago property to address his fans and publicly argue against the indictment and preview his strategy for combating the accusations politically should he seek reelection in 2024.
Judge Juan Merchan cautioned Trump not to “jeopardize the rule of law” or incite social upheaval during Tuesday’s hearing, but Trump lashed out against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and the judge later that evening.
The public and Trump’s legal team got their first look at the sealed indictment that a grand jury issued against the president last week.
Trump’s Republican supporters, as well as several legal experts, were quick to doubt the indictment. Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig said that prosecutors will have to prove that the fabricated records were intended to conceal another crime, which was not identified in the indictment, to prove that Trump committed crimes as opposed to misdemeanors.
As Honig put it, “One of the hard legal concerns here is whether or not you have to establish that those documents were forged to commit some other crime, some second crime,” to elevate the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. “You heard the defense attorneys arguing about that,” the prosecutor said.
During a press conference following Trump’s arraignment, Bragg explained that the indictment did not detail which laws had been broken by the president because “the law does not so demand.”
According to Bragg, Trump broke the law at the meeting by conspiring to promote his candidacy through illegal means, which is a violation of “New York state election law.” He also brought up the breaking of a statute limiting contributions to federal elections.
Read up on more breaking Trump stories that we’ve covered recently:
- Donald Trump Makes a Landmark Court Appearance in New York
- Trump to speak Tuesday Night after Conviction
- Manhattan Grand Jury indicts Trump on over 30 Corporate Fraud Allegations
The Subsequent Hearing is scheduled for December
Trump pleaded not guilty when instructed to do so by the judge at his arraignment. In court, the former president spoke with caution. He entered the courtroom cautiously, studying the faces of the reporters there, and directed his gaze to the judge throughout his remarks.
Trump’s next scheduled in-person hearing in New York is on December 4. The indictment was accompanied by a 13-page “statement of facts” that laid out in layman’s terms the alleged criminal conduct that Trump performed to win the 2016 presidential election.
According to the indictment, each of the criminal charges against Trump is tied to a different document found in the business files of the Trump Organization.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has charged Trump with intentionally falsifying business records on multiple occasions.
A court ruled Monday night that the hearings would not be broadcast, despite requests and other news outlets. Yet, before the start of the hearing, five still photographers have been granted permission to capture Trump and the courtroom.
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