Former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on history-making criminal charges related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence.
The 76-year-old former president, who ruled the country for four years till January 2021, was arrested when he arrived to surrender at the Manhattan criminal court. Trump, who became the first former US president to be indicted, arrested and arraigned on criminal charges, pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges of falsifying business records in person before State Supreme Court Justice Juan M Merchan.
He entered the plea during a 45-minute arraignment as prosecutors unsealed a grand jury indictment. No video cameras were allowed inside the courtroom. There was a few seconds visual as he entered the courtroom. Trump left the court after his arraignment. The former president earlier arrived at the specially secured Manhattan courthouse in an eight-car motorcade. He was arrested as he arrived at the court.
Shortly after Trump was put under arrest, his campaign released a mugshot picture of him on a t-shirt saying not guilty. A large crowd had gathered in front of the courtroom ahead of his arraignment. President Joe Biden did not respond to questions from reporters on the issue at the White House. Trump’s attorneys earlier said the Republican leader, eying the White House for a second time in 2024, will plead not guilty to the criminal charges he is facing in connection with hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Trump will now fly back to Florida where he is expected to deliver remarks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach in the evening. Trump has denied all wrongdoings in connection with the payments made to Stormy Daniels, 44, ahead of the 2016 presidential election. “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!” Trump posted to Truth Social as he was en route to the courthouse.
Security was tightened in New York, in particular the courthouse in lower Manhattan, as hundreds of Trump’s supporters have landed in the city to rally behind him. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has warned against any breaking of law and order. The White House refrained from making a comment on the developments in New York except for saying that it’s a legal matter.
“It’s an ongoing case, so we’re just not going to comment on the case specifically itself, but the president is going to focus on the American people like he does every day. This is not something that is a focus for him. He is going to focus on things like making sure that ‘continue to lower prices for the American people,’ White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference.
“Of course, this is playing out on many of the networks here on a daily basis for hours and hours, so obviously he will catch part of the news when he has a moment to catch up on the news of the day, but this is not his focus for today,’ she said in response to a question. President Joe Biden, she said, was not given a heads up on Trump’s indictment. “He was briefed by his chief of staff and he learned about this just like all of you through the reporting. Our focus right now is on the American people. I’m just not going to comment on any ongoing case,’ she said.
News outlets were not allowed to broadcast Trump’s arraignment. Trump flew in his aircraft to New York City from his Mar-a-Lago home on Monday. The development comes as Trump faces legal hurdles in other potential criminal cases. Trump is currently the front-runner among all declared and potential contenders for the 2024 Republican White House nomination. But there is nothing in US law that prevents a candidate who is found guilty of a crime from campaigning for and serving as president — even from prison.
Trump was twice impeached by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted by the Senate both times. Trump and his aides are using the indictment to rile up his supporters and bolster his 2024 re-election campaign. Hours before his arraignment, Trump sent an email to his supporters, which he claimed was the last one before his arrest, saying that the United States is becoming a “Marxist Third World” country and went on social media questioning the fairness of the judiciary.
“My last email before my arrest,” Trump said in the subject line of the email. “Today, we mourn the loss of justice in America. Today is the day that a ruling political party ARRESTS its leading opponent for having committed NO CRIME,” Trump wrote. “As I will be out of commission for the next few hours, I want to take this moment to THANK YOU for all of your support. I am blown away by all of the donations, support, and prayers we have received. It’s sad to see what’s happening – not for myself – but for our country,’ he said. In less than 24 hours after being indicted he raised over more than USD 4 million.
“A sad day for our nation, even as we pay the highest price to prove that we are a nation of laws: no one is above the law, and now former President Trump stands indicted with 34 counts and is protected, like every American, with every Constitutional protection, including presumptive-innocence and the all powerful right to confront the witnesses against him,” Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra said after the former president pleaded not guilty.