Trump Denies 34 Felony Charges, Enters Not Guilty Plea
The former president was informed of the accusations against him during his arraignment in court. Before the hearing, he did not speak to the media or address any questions.
On Tuesday, prosecutors in Manhattan accused Donald J. Trump of covering up a possible sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign. They also revealed 34 felony charges that open a perilous chapter in the long public life of the billionaire businessman who rose to the presidency and now faces the prospect of a shameful criminal trial.
Mr. Trump turned himself in to the authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon after being charged last week and becoming the first former American president to face criminal charges.
A bizarre scenario for a man who has previously held the Oval Office and is launching a third bid for the White House, Mr. Trump is currently appearing before a court for his arraignment, where he has entered a not guilty plea.
Mr. Trump's 11-vehicle procession arrived at the district attorney's office, located in the towering Manhattan Criminal Courts Building, just before 1:30 p.m., providing an extraordinary performance played out in front of a country that was deeply divided. While he was in detention, he was fingerprinted as any other criminal defendant would be, but special accommodations were made for the former president. He was only detained briefly, and it was not anticipated that he would be restrained or have his mug picture taken during that time.
When Mr. Trump entered the courthouse, he was accompanied by his legal advisor, Boris Epshteyn, and the attorneys managing this case, Todd W. Blanche, Susan R. Necheles, and Joseph Tacopina. Mr. Trump was furious as he entered the courtroom. Despite indications from his staff that he might address this, Mr. Trump chose not to do so.
This is because there are worries about demonstrations and threats that Trump prompts. The events of the day will be highly choreographed by the Secret Service, the New York City Police Department, court security, and the Manhattan district attorney's office, which has been investigating Mr. Trump for nearly five years. The streets outside of the courthouse were crowded with the press corps and hundreds of demonstrators as helicopters flew overhead. Supporters and detractors of the former president gathered at a nearby park, where they yelled at each other from across metal barricades that had been placed to keep the peace.
The allegations made against Mr. Trump originate from a hush-money payment of $130,000 made by Mr. Trump's attorney, Michael D. Cohen, to a porn actress named Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment, which Mr. Cohen claimed he made at the instruction of Mr. Trump, guaranteed that she would not go public with her account of a physical relationship with Mr. Trump.
Prosecutors claim that Mr. Trump then repaid Mr. Cohen in a manner that hid the real nature of the transaction: The reimbursement to Mr. Cohen was categorized as outstanding legal expenditures as part of a retainer arrangement, according to the documents that were kept internally by his business.
It is possible that the case, which was brought forward by the district attorney for Manhattan, Alvin L. Bragg, is just the beginning of Mr. Trump's journey through the criminal justice system. In addition, he is the subject of three additional criminal investigations for allegedly undermining an election and improperly managing confidential government records, both of which are issues that are fundamental to the democracy and security of the United States.
But given the crass and circus-like political era that Mr. Trump's election ushered in — one marked by the elevation of D-list celebrities, uncouth social media posts, and a casual relationship with the truth — it is perhaps not surprising that his first indictment stems from lies about a tryst with a porn star.
A conviction is not a foregone conclusion for Mr. Bragg, who is a Democrat. The accusations of fabricating corporate documents seem to depend on an innovative interpretation of the law.
And Mr. Trump has denied any misconduct — as well as having any sexual encounter with Ms. Daniels — and has struck out at Mr. Bragg with threatening and, at times, racial language, labeling the district attorney, who is Black, an "animal" and commanding his followers to "PROTEST" his arrest. In addition, Mr. Trump has denied having any sexual experience with Ms. Daniels. His recent statements bring to mind the tweets he made in the days leading up to the assault on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump's lead has widened over rivals in the Republican Party's presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, conducted after news broke that he would face criminal charges.
More than two-thirds of poll respondents said they believed that Trump paid hush money to Daniels, but half said they thought the charges were politically motivated. Some 48% of Republicans say they want Trump to be their party's presidential nominee, up from 44% last month. Second-place Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fell from 30% to around 19%.