Trump arraigned, pleads not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records
Ex-United States President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony criminal charges during his court hearing.
Trump was earlier arrested and in police custody ahead of his arraignment.
News outlets were barred from broadcasting the arraignment. However, Alvin Bragg, Manhattan district attorney, released the details of the former president’s charges in an indictment sheet.
Bragg said Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.
He said during the election, Trump and others employed a “catch and kill” scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects.
Trump then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws, Bragg added.
The former president was also found guilty of a payout to Stormy Daniels, an adult actress, in an attempt to buy her silence over an alleged affair.
“In a second instance, American Media Inc (AMI) paid $150,000 to a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with TRUMP,” the indictment sheet reads.
“When TRUMP explicitly directed a lawyer who then worked for the Trump Organisation as TRUMP’s Special Counsel (“Special Counsel”) to reimburse AMI in cash, the Special Counsel indicated to TRUMP that the payment should be made via a shell company and not by cash.
“AMI ultimately declined to accept reimbursement after consulting their counsel. AMI, which later admitted its conduct was unlawful in an agreement with federal prosecutors, made false entries in its business records concerning the true purpose of the $150,000 payment.”
The former president has not commented since he left the courtroom in Manhattan.
He is reported to return to Florida immediately where he is expected to break his silence.
So far, the presiding judge has not placed a gag order on Trump but warned him that the issue would be revisited if he continued with his heated rhetoric about the case.
The former president has frequently called the various investigations surrounding him a “witch hunt,” and has portrayed himself as a victim of what he’s claimed are political probes led by Democratic prosecutors.
President Joe Biden is yet to comment on the development.