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Trump Pleads Not Guilty on 34 Counts Related to Hush Money Indictment

Written by on April 4, 2023

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a state court in Manhattan to 34 charges linked to a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels just ahead of his 2016 presidential election victory to silence her about her claim of an alleged tryst with him a decade earlier.

It is the first indictment ever filed against a current or former U.S. leader.

Trump has long denied her claim of a one-night encounter but not that his one-time lawyer and political fixer, Michael Cohen, made the payment to Daniels and that reimbursement payments to Cohen were recorded on a Trump Organization business ledger as legal expenses. Trump disputes the payment was related to his presidential campaign seven years ago.

The 76-year-old Trump oversaw his real estate business empire and was a fixture in the city’s glitzy, tabloid social world for decades before becoming president. But now for the first time, he was appearing in his home city as a defendant, even as early national polls show him leading the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as he tries to reclaim the White House.

Americans are sharply divided politically about Trump and long accustomed to watching his every move on television. But in an age of mass media and constant videos of his life throughout the country, they won’t be able to watch Trump in court. New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan rejected media requests to televise the proceedings but said he would allow a pool of photographers to take pictures of Trump and others just before starting his arraignment.

The indictment against Trump remained sealed, so the exact charges and any supporting evidence could remain secret until it is publicly disclosed during the arraignment.

Shortly before, Trump was booked and fingerprinted like any criminal defendant. But authorities say in deference to his standing as a former president, he was unlikely to be handcuffed or paraded before photographers in a so-called “perp walk.” It was not immediately known whether a mug shot was taken.

Dozens of police assembled at the courthouse and at Trump Tower six kilometers away, where Trump spent the night at his residence and had last-minute strategy talks with his lawyers. Trump’s Secret Service detail mapped out his passage into the courthouse and his walk to Merchan’s courtroom.

The White House declined to discuss security arrangements but said the government is “always prepared” for whatever might unfold if protests erupt for or against Trump and District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor in the case. Before the court hearing, pro-Trump demonstrators scuffled with some of his detractors in a park across the street from the courthouse.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams warned that “rabble rousers” coming to the city to protest had better behave.

“Our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger,” he said.

When asked if he thought there would be unrest in the city, President Joe Biden, who was touring a factory in Minnesota on Monday, replied, “No. I have faith in the New York Police Department.”

Barricades were erected to restrict traffic near the courthouse, but Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally, and the New York Young Republican Club, planned a “peaceful protest” against Bragg across the street from the courthouse.

Trump has criticized Bragg on social media for what he says is a political “witch hunt” against him and called the Black prosecutor an “animal” and a “racist.” Trump has contended the judge “hates me” after Merchan, in a separate case earlier this year, fined subsidiaries of the Trump Organization $1.6 million in a tax fraud scheme.

After the proceeding, Trump plans to fly back to Florida, where he will deliver remarks Tuesday night from his Mar-a-Lago estate and gather with his supporters.

Since his indictment last Thursday, Trump’s campaign said it has raised $8 million and logged more than 16,000 volunteer sign-ups, which campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said were “key indicators that Americans from all backgrounds are sick and tired of the weaponization of the justice system against President Trump and his supporters.”

The former president is also facing other criminal investigations that could result in more charges against him, or possibly exonerate him of wrongdoing. They include federal probes of his efforts to upend his 2020 reelection loss to Biden, including Trump’s role in encouraging supporters to try to block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021, and his retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. He was required to turn over the material to the National Archives when he left office.

Meanwhile, in a narrower case, a prosecutor in the southern state of Georgia is probing Trump’s efforts there to reverse Biden’s win when Trump asked state election officials to “find” him enough votes to claim victory.

While the details of the New York hush money case remained undisclosed, the outcome of any trial could hinge on the intent behind the payment to Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty to several offenses linked to the transactions and served more than a year in prison.

On Sunday, Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told CNN the payment to Daniels was a “personal expenditure, not a campaign expenditure.” The Wall Street Journal first reported the payment in early 2018.


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