On Tuesday 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.
The prosecution claimed that through a hush-money scheme, Trump attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election by paying off women who claimed to have had extramarital encounters with him. He has denied any involvement.
Prosecutors claim that Trump knew of and participated in a criminal scheme to bury damaging information about his campaign; this included Trump ordering the illegal payment of $130,000 to a third party to bury the material.
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.
Following his arraignment, Trump returned immediately to Florida. Trump addressed a rally with his supporters on Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he publicly argued against the indictment and gave a sneak peek into his political strategy for combating the allegations 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.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America, never thought it could happen. The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” Trump said. “It’s an insult to our country,” he added.
On Tuesday, the grand jury indictment against Trump that was delivered last week was unsealed, giving the public and Trump’s defense team their first look at the exact charges against their client.
Republicans who support Trump were eager to challenge the indictment, and even some lawyers had doubts. CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig said that to prove that Trump committed felonies as opposed to misdemeanors, prosecutors will have to show that the forged documents were used to cover up another offense that was not included in the indictment.
“One of the complicated legal questions here is to bump that up from a misdemeanor to a felony you have to show that those records were falsified to commit some other crime, some second crime,” Honig said. “You heard the defense lawyers, I think, rightly, complaining about that.”
On March 22, 2023, Mike Sington posted a clip to his official Twitter page. You can see the clip by clicking on the tweet below.
How the world wants the arrest of Donald Trump to go down. pic.twitter.com/KUO4zPGQBi
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) March 21, 2023
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 require.”
At the conference, Trump reportedly committed several laws, but Bragg focused on one: “New York state election law – what makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.” He also brought up the breaking of a statute limiting contributions to federal elections.
The evidence, Bragg said, will be “borne out in a public courtroom in downtown Manhattan,” he said.
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The Subsequent Hearing Will Take Place in 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 upcoming New York court appearance is scheduled for December 4. A 13-page “statement of facts” accompanied the indictment, explaining in layman’s terms how Trump allegedly committed crimes to aid in his 2016 presidential election.
Cnn’s official Twitter account confirmed the arrest of Donald Trump in New York City on April 4.
— CNN (@CNN) April 4, 2023
“From August 2015 to December 2017, 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.”
According to the indictment, each of the criminal charges against Trump is tied to a different entry in the Trump Organization’s books. Prosecutors in Manhattan have accused Trump of repeatedly falsifying company documents.
On Monday night, a judge ruled that the media would not be allowed to broadcast the proceedings. This was despite the request of multiple news outlets, including CNN. Yet, before the start of the hearing, five still photographers have been granted permission to capture Trump and the courtroom.
Trump Gives His Reply From Mar-a-logo
There had been rumors that Trump might address the media when he was at the courthouse on Tuesday, but he ultimately did not. Instead, Trump addressed the issue at his Mar-a-Lago event that same evening, where he made his first on-camera comments to a crowd of cheering fans.
Trump has denied any involvement and has called the indictment an act of political persecution. Prosecutors presented the judge with a stack of Trump’s social media posts and said in court that the president was making threats through “irresponsible” posts, including the sharing of an article with a photo of Trump holding a baseball bat.
Trump’s lawyers answered that their client was within his First Amendment rights in venting his anger at what they called improper leaks from the district attorney’s office concerning the indictment. The Trump legal team also insisted that their client did not threaten anyone in any of his social media statements.
On April 5, New York Magazine tweeted out the first official photo of Donald Trump’s arrest.
BREAKING: This is the first photo of Donald Trump under arrest pic.twitter.com/Wh3e51ffnq
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) April 4, 2023
Trump’s right to free speech was recognized by Merchan, but she cautioned both sides against statements that could “incite violence, create civil unrest or jeopardize the safety or well-being of any individuals.” There was no request for a gag order from either side.
Trump claimed in his speech on Tuesday night that the judge in his New York case was “Trump-hating” notwithstanding the judge’s words. Trump has criticized not only Bragg and the indictment but also the other prosecutors looking into him, former Vice President Joe Biden, and other political opponents.
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“This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election. And it should be dropped immediately,” Trump said.
Although Bragg’s indictment is the first time Trump has been charged with a crime, he still faces possible legal difficulties from other sources: Trump is still under investigation for his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the handling of secret information at Mar-a-Lago, according to special counsel Jack Smith. Also, the investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia by a Fulton County special grand jury has concluded.
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