Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felony Counts as Details of Indictment Are Unsealed
Trump, who is actively campaigning for another term in the White House, is the first sitting or former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges
Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, multiple outlets report, following an investigation into an alleged hush money payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels while he was a presidential candidate in 2016.
The indictment against Trump was unsealed and the charges against the former president were read to him in court Tuesday afternoon before he himself made the plea to a judge.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office previously said that Trump would not be placed in handcuffs or have his mug shot taken when he surrendered to authorities, as that is only reserved for flight risks or threats to the district attorney or court personnel — which was not determined to be the case. He was reportedly fingerprinted upon arrival at the courthouse.
The investigation that led to unprecedented charges against a former president traces back to an alleged affair Trump had with Daniels, rumors of which surfaced in 2018, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to the ex-porn star a month before the 2016 election so she’d keep quiet about the alleged sexual encounter they’d had years earlier.
A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the 76-year-old former president last Thursday after investigating the payment that prosecutors allege was falsely documented as “legal expenses” in the financial records of the Trump Organization.
While Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen initially denied the claims of an affair, Cohen later admitted that there was a payment made to the porn star.
Calling it “a private transaction,” Cohen told The New York Times that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket in 2016. He said Trump had not reimbursed him.
Trump has since admitted he authorized the $130,000 payment, but has continued to deny the underlying claims that the two had an affair or that the payment was in any way connected to his campaign.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began presenting evidence to a grand jury in the case in January, with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker among the witnesses who were seen entering the grand jury building over the course of the investigation.
The company that publishes the Enquirer admitted in late 2018 that it helped broker “catch and kill” deals with Daniels and other women, in which it paid the women hush money for their stories, effectively silencing them ahead of the 2016 election.
In a 2018 statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York said the publisher “admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate” and that “its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
Daniels and Cohen also both met with prosecutors earlier this month, the AP reported. And on March 20, Cohen’s former legal adviser Robert Costello met with the grand jury, per CNN.
Trump, who is actively campaigning for another term in the White House, is the first sitting or former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.