Former President Donald Trump was charged on Tuesday with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a historic case over allegations he orchestrated hush-money payments to two women before the 2016 U.S. election to suppress publication of their sexual encounters with him.
Prosecutors in Manhattan accused Trump, the first sitting or former U.S. president to face criminal charges, of trying to conceal a violation of election laws during his successful 2016 campaign.
Not guilty,” Trump, 76, said when asked by the judge in court how he pleaded. Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Trump sat, subdued, with his hands folded at the defense table flanked by his lawyers.
The front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination in 2024, Trump responded with answers like “yes” when the judge asked him if he understood a right. At one point, the judge put his hand to his ear as if to prompt an answer.
Prosecutor Chris Conroy said: “The defendant Donald J. Trump falsified New York business records in order to conceal an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws.”
While falsifying business records in New York on its own is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison, it is elevated to a felony punishable by up to four years when done to advance or conceal another crime, such as election law violations.
The two women in the case are adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
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Prosecutors during the arraignment said Trump made a series of social media posts, including one threatening “death and destruction” if he was charged. The judge asked the parties to “please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.”
On a cool and sunny early spring day in New York, Trump supporters and detractors before the arraignment were separated by barricades set up by police to try to keep order, though there were some confrontations.
Trump said nothing as he entered the courtroom or when he left roughly an hour later.
He flew home to Florida where he addressed family, friends and supporters at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach on Tuesday night, delivering a litany of grievances against investigators and prosecutors and rival politicians.