Donald Trump personally pleaded not guilty to 34 felonies as he appeared in a New York court, becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges.
The charges allege that he falsified business records to “conceal harmful information and illegal activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election,” according to prosecutors.
The 76-year-old Republican is accused of using a “catch and kill” scheme to uncover, buy and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects.
Latest updates: The charges against Trump were not sealed. watch the coverage live
The grand jury indictment, which has been released, indicts Trump directing three different cases of closed cash payments to cover up the alleged cases.
Prosecutors consider the alleged payments “part of a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election.”
Trump accused of paying porn actress $130,000 (£104,000) Stormi Daniels 12 days before the 2016 presidential election, which he won.
This is believed to have been done to prevent Ms Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, from discussing a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006.
He is also accused of paying former Playboy model Karen McDougall $150,000 (£120,000) to prevent her from going public with allegations he had sex with her.
He denied having sex with either woman and denied any wrongdoing in the payments.
The third charge concerns an alleged payment of $30,000 (£24,000) to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock, according to prosecutors.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said a total of 11 checks were issued “for a fraudulent purpose” and nine of them were signed by Trump.
Mr Bragg said: “Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as payment for legal services.”
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said the former president instructed him to arrange the $130,000 payment to Ms. Daniels.
And Trump admitted to indemnifying himself for the payment, with the Trump Organization recording the reimbursement as legal fees.
A felony is usually defined as an offense punishable by one or more years in prison.
The charges carry a combined maximum of 136 years in prison under New York law, but if Trump is convicted at trial, that term will almost certainly be much less.
Conviction will not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
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Arrest at the courthouse
Earlier, Trump was formally arrested after arriving at the Manhattan Criminal Court.
The front-runner to be the Republican nominee for the White House in 2024 surrendered to the Manhattan district attorney’s office in the same building before the historic hearing.
Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, he was fingerprinted and processed.
With a stony face Trump then walked into the courtroom without saying a word for his sentencing where the formal charges were revealed. He was not handcuffed during the proceedings.
He sat with folded hands as he entered his plea, led by his lawyers. “Not guilty,” said Trump.
Trump declared that “there is no case”
He called the indictment a “witch hunt” and claimed it was politically motivated because the lead investigator, Mr. Bragg, is a Democrat.
Trump also said the investigation was an attempt to weaken his bid to regain the White House next year.
After the trial, he wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. “The hearings were a shock to many because they had no ‘surprises’, so no incidents. Virtually every lawyer says there is no case here. Nothing illegal was done.”
Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, told reporters that “we will fight it.”
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Television cameras were barred from entering the courtroom following Judge Juan Mercan’s ruling, but five photographers were still allowed in to take pictures of Trump and the scene before the hearing began.
Earlier, Trump threw punches as he left his nearby Trump Tower home before being escorted to the courthouse by his Secret Service protection team.
He will face the next court hearing in December. The judge asked both sides to refrain from comments that could lead to civil unrest.