Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts

Billionaire becomes first former US president to face criminal charges

Donald Trump. (Photo: Twitter)
NEW YORK, United States — Manhattan prosecutors on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of covering up a potential scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign, unveiling 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.اضافة اعلان

Trump was indicted last week — becoming the first former American president to face criminal charges — and he surrendered to authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon.

At his arraignment in court, Trump entered a not guilty plea.

Entering custodyIn a remarkable spectacle playing out before a divided nation, Trump’s 11-vehicle motorcade arrived just before 1:30pm ET at the district attorney’s office, part of the towering Manhattan Criminal Courts Building. While in custody, he was fingerprinted like any felony defendant, but special accommodations were made for the former president: He spent only a short time in custody and he was not expected to be handcuffed or have his mug shot taken.

When Trump, visibly angry, entered the courtroom, he was accompanied by his legal adviser, Boris Epshteyn, and the lawyers handling this case, Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, and Joseph Tacopina. Trump declined to speak, despite aides indicating that he might.

Amid fears of protests and Trump-inspired threats, the day’s events were to 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 Trump for nearly five years.

As helicopters circled overhead, the streets outside the courthouse were crammed with the press corps and hundreds of demonstrators, with supporters and critics of the former president assembling at a nearby park, where they screamed at one another from across metal barricades placed to keep the peace.

Hush moneyThe charges against Trump stem from a $130,000 hush-money payment that his fixer, Michael Cohen, made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, in the final days of the 2016 campaign. The payment, which Cohen said he made at Trump’s direction, ensured she would not go public with her story of a sexual liaison with Trump.

Trump then reimbursed Cohen, prosecutors say, in a way that concealed the true nature of the deal: His company’s internal records characterized the repayment to Cohen as legal expenses owed as part of a retainer agreement.

The case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, might mark only the beginning of Trump’s journey through the criminal justice system. He faces three other criminal investigations related to accusations of undermining an election and mishandling sensitive government records, issues at the core of American democracy and security.

For Bragg, a Democrat, a conviction is no sure thing. The falsifying business records charges appear to hinge on a novel application of the law.

And Trump has denied all wrongdoing — as well as any sexual encounter with Daniels — and has lashed out at Bragg with threatening and at times racist language, calling the district attorney, who is Black, an “animal” and summoning his followers to “PROTEST” his arrest.

Here is what else you need to know:Trump’s surrender was the culmination of a monthslong drama that first centered on the question of whether he would be indicted — and soon broadened to include predictions about how he would respond. He has alternately fretted about and blustered over the prospect of an arrest, while his aides have leveraged the indictment to ramp up fundraising and push primary rivals into an awkward dance between criticizing prosecutors and backing Trump.

Bragg is the first prosecutor to charge Trump, and has already entered the political spotlight, an uncomfortable position for a district attorney who has never before held elected office.

The indictment, the product of a nearly five-year investigation, kicks off a new and volatile phase in Trump’s post-presidential life as he makes a third run for the White House. And it will throw the race for the Republican nomination — which he leads in most polls — into uncharted territory.

Some of Trump’s advisers had been under the belief that he would be charged with both misdemeanors and felonies, and they were jolted by recent reports that he would instead be facing dozens of felony counts.

Trump has spent nearly half a century fending off criminal charges. He was first investigated in New York in the late 1970s, an episode that set the tone for how he dealt with prosecutors for decades.

Federal prosecutors are separately scrutinizing Trump for his actions surrounding his electoral defeat and his handling of sensitive documents. And a Georgia prosecutor is in the final stages of an investigation into Trump’s attempts to reverse the election results in that state.

Cohen, who broke from Trump in 2018 after the hush-money deal came to light, is the prosecution’s star witness. He pleaded guilty to federal crimes involving the hush money and served more than a year in prison, which Trump’s lawyers will likely use to attack his credibility.

Trump’s allies have been heavily focused on the idea that he could face a gag order, something his advisers are also aware is a possibility after his broadsides against Bragg, who pushed for indictment, and Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case. There is no indication so far that the judge plans to do so.

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