Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with a scheme that sent stop payments to two women before the 2016 presidential election.
The 16-page indictment against Trump was unsealed on Tuesday, making him the first former US president ever to face criminal charges.
“Not guilty,” Trump told Judge Juan Mercan from his seat during the hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The indictment alleges that the payments were part of a broader scheme to suppress claims by women, including porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougall, that they had sex with Trump in order to keep their stories from Democrat Hillary Clinton. against Trump’s chances. in the elections of 2016
Follow up CNBC.comformer live Surrender and sentencing of President Donald Trump in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Prosecutors also said a Trump-friendly publishing company, American Media Inc., paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about fathering Trump’s child out of wedlock.
All three payments were part of an alleged “catch and kill” effort between August 2015 and December 2017 by Trump and others, including then-AMI chief David Pecker, to “discover, buy and bury negative information about him and his to increase the electoral rating”. perspectives,” the prosecutors said.
Read the indictment against Trump
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at a news conference that each of the false statements in business records related to the payment to Daniels was made to cover up other crimes related to the 2016 election.
Those crimes included violations of New York state election law and making false statements to tax authorities, he said. Falsifying business records is usually a misdemeanor, but can become a felony if it is done to cover up another crime.
Merchan scheduled the next hearing in the case on December 4. The criminal case may not be resolved until the 2024 presidential election, where Trump is seeking the Republican nomination.
“New Yorkers allege Donald Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to cover up crimes that withheld damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
“Manhattan is home to the nation’s most important business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to hide criminal behavior,” Bragg said.
The prosecutor told the judge that the DA’s office is concerned about comments Trump has made on social media that could threaten the DA’s office and the city.
It included one post that showed Trump holding a bat to the head of District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
The judge said he takes Trump’s tough rhetoric about the case very seriously.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche, told Merchan that Trump spoke strongly, but that it was within his rights to do so.
Before the hearing, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., posted on Trump’s Truth Social website a photo of Merchan’s daughter, who, according to a Breitbart news article, worked on President Joe Biden’s campaign.
“It seems important,” the younger Trump wrote. “BH never ends people!”
Quiet cash payments
Daniels received $130,000 from then-Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen at Trump’s direction 12 days before the 2016 election. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had sex with Trump once in 2006, a few months after his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son, Barron.
Trump later reimbursed Cohen with a series of monthly checks, 11 in all. The checks were initially issued by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and later checks were drawn from Trump’s bank account, prosecutors said.
Nine of the checks were signed by Trump, and “Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as payment for legal services rendered pursuant to a non-existent retainer agreement” with Cohen.
Former US President Donald Trump appeared in court with his lawyer Joe Tacopina following his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury on April 4 in an investigation into payments to porn star Stormy Daniels in New York. in 2023
Andrew Kelly |: Reuters:
McDougal received $150,000 from AMI, publisher of The National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid allied with Trump. McDougall said she had a long-term relationship with Trump that began in 2006.
Trump denies having sex with Daniels or McDougall.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal felonies, two of which were campaign finance violations, for facilitating payments to both Daniels and McDougall.
A grand jury indicted Trump on Thursday. Since then, the charging document was sealed.
A grand jury began hearing testimony in the case in late January.
News of the lawsuit came as a surprise because a former district attorney suggested last year that the investigation into Trump was over after Bragg declined to press charges against Trump over alleged fraudulent real estate financial statements. .
Trump is under separate criminal investigations by the Justice Department and the Georgia state attorney general for efforts to fix his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.
The DOJ is also investigating Trump for maintaining government records after leaving the White House and possible obstruction of justice.