NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records arising from hush money payments to pornographic actors during the 2016 campaign, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.
The plea came during a history-making indictment in a lower Manhattan courtroom, with Trump becoming the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.
The indictment was opened:
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced charges against Donald Trump for falsifying New York business records to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.
It accused Trump of directing three different instances of hush-hush payments to cover up his alleged affair.
Other major news:
- A judge has warned Trump to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or lead to civil unrest.
- The charges against Trump have been opened. Details on costs are still to come.
- Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He had left the Manhattan courtroom where his indictment was being held. He spent 57 minutes in the courtroom.
- protesters from both sides gathered outside in Collect Pond Park, some with flags reading “Trump or Death.” Republican representatives George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene were among the 50 to 60 Trump supporters at the scene.
Former President Donald Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday at a Manhattan courthouse ahead of his indictment on criminal charges stemming from paying bribes to porn actors during his 2016 campaign.
Trump himself described the experience as “SURREAL” as he traveled from Trump Tower to a lower Manhattan courtroom, where he would face a judge as the first former president in American history to be criminally charged.
The argument, while hopefully brief and procedural, is a remarkable calculation for Trump after years of delving into his personal, business and political affairs. The case unfolds against the backdrop of not only his third campaign for the White House but also other investigations in Washington and Atlanta that may turn out more accusations.
It represents a new split-screen reality for Trump as he bows to the sour demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an aura of defiance and victimhood at celebratory campaign events.
Dressed in his trademark dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to the crowd outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed. He arrived at court in a motorcade of eight cars from Trump Tower, conveying in real time his anger at the proceedings.
“Headed to Lower Manhattan, Courthouse,” the fastidious former president posted on his Truth Social platform. “Looks SO REAL – WOW they're going to CATCH ME. Can't believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The booking and appearance before Judge Juan Merchan should be relatively brief – though hardly routine – because Trump knows for the first time the charges against him. Trump will plead not guilty, according to his lawyers, and is expected to present his own defense, as is standard in court.
Merchant has ruled that TV cameras are not permitted in the courtroom.
Trump, who was impeached twice by the US House of Representatives but never convicted in the US Senate, is the first former president to face criminal charges. The nation's 45th commander-in-chief was escorted from Trump Tower to the courthouse by the Secret Service and presumably had his mug shot taken.
“He is strong and ready to go,” Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told The Associated Press. Previously, Tacopina said in a TV interview that the former president would not plead guilty to the lesser charges, even if that would clear the case. He also said he didn't think the case would make it to a jury.
WATCH: Trump's lawyers talk how he will fight criminal charges
said the New York police they were ready for a big protest by Trump supporters, who share the former Republican president's belief that the New York grand jury indictment and the three pending additional investigations are politically motivated and intended to undermine his bid to reclaim the White House by 2024. However, journalists often outnumber number of protesters.
Trump, a former reality TV star, has used that narrative to his political advantage, saying he amassed more than $8 million in the days since the indictment on the “witch hunt” claims. His campaign released a fundraising request titled “My last email before arrest” and he has repeatedly attacked the Manhattan district attorney, encouraging supporters to protest and claiming without evidence that the judge presiding over the case “hated me” — something his own attorneys have. said incorrectly.
Trump is scheduled to return to his Palm Beach, Florida, home, Mar-a-Lago, on Tuesday evening to give remarks. At least 500 prominent supporters have been invited, with some of the most pro-Trump Republican members of Congress expected to attend.
Confidence will not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
Inside a Manhattan courtroom, prosecutors led by New York district attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, are expected to open charges issued last week by a grand jury. That's when Trump and his defense attorneys will get a glimpse of the exact charges against him.
The indictment contains multiple counts of falsifying business records, including at least one felony violation, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press last week.
After the indictment, Trump is expected to be released by the authorities because the charges against him do not require bail to be established.
The inquiry is looking into six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both said they had sexual relations with Trump who was married years before he entered politics. Trump denies having had sexual intercourse with any of the women and denies any wrongdoing involving payment.
The prosecution will unfold against the backdrop of tight security in New York, coming more than two years after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a failed attempt to stop congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory.
Trump is challenging ahead of his indictment. He used his social media networks to complain that he was going to court in a highly democratic area, declaring, “KANGAROO Trial” and “THIS IS NOT AMERICA THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!” He and his campaign had repeatedly attacked Bragg and even exercised surveillance on members of the Bragg family.
Still, the view around Trump Tower and the courthouse where Trump will stand before a judge does not display major riots. Police attempted to separate protesters who supported the former president from those who opposed him by confining them to separate sides of the park near the courthouse using metal barricades.
Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Trump's staunchest congressional supporters, held a brief rally in a park, but the scene was so chaotic it was hard to hear her amidst the crush of reporters and protesters.
“We are a party of peace,” Greene said, thanking the Trump supporters who attended. “Democrats are communists.”
embattled New York Republican representative George Santos also appeared in solidarity with Trump, saying, “I want to support the president.”
“I think this is unprecedented and this is a bad day for democracy,” Santos said, pointing out that future prosecutors could target Biden and other presidents with other cases, which “undermine the justice system.”
New York's ability to conduct safe, drama-free litigation in a case involving a polarizing former president could be an important test as prosecutors in Atlanta and Washington pursue their own investigations into Trump that could also result in prosecution. The investigation concerns attempts to overturn the 2020 election results as well as possible mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Tucker and Weissert reporting from Washington. Associated Press journalists Jill Colvin, Bobby Caina Calvan, Larry Neumeister, Karen Matthews, Larry Fleisher, Deepti Hajela, Julie Walker, Ted Shaffrey, David R. Martin, Joe Frederick and Robert Bumsted in New York and Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed for this report.