Well, the day has finally come. Donald Trump has become the first president in U.S. history to be criminally charged.
Earlier today, Trump was formally arrested and charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. They are all class E felonies – the lowest category of felony offense in New York. Each carries a potential maximum prison sentence of four years per count.
The former president pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Related: Trump Organization Found Guilty Of Tax Fraud
It’s worth noting that falsifying business records under New York state law is generally a misdemeanor.
However, prosecutors can escalate the charge when they believe someone has falsified business records in order to commit another crime or hide the committing of a crime.
Donald Trump is in court for his arraignment, where he learned about the charges against him for the first time. He did not deliver remarks or answer questions from a reporter ahead of the proceeding. Here's the latest news: https://t.co/XFdadgp9vY pic.twitter.com/QQkfL3BKTM
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 4, 2023
From the New York Times:
The charges against Mr. Trump stem from three hush money deals. One of them involved the National Enquirer, a longtime ally of Mr. Trump, paying $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to know that Mr. Trump fathered a child out of wedlock.
The tabloid made another payment to Karen McDougal, Playboy’s playmate of the year in 1998, who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. She reached a $150,000 agreement with the National Enquirer, which bought the rights to her story to suppress it, a practice known as “catch and kill.”
The final payoff involved a $130,000 deal between Mr. Trump’s fixer, Michael D. Cohen, and a porn star in the final days of the campaign. The payment, which Mr. Cohen said he made at Mr. Trump’s direction, ensured the porn star, Stormy Daniels, would not go public with her story of a sexual liaison with Mr. Trump.
CNN adds this:
Prosecutors alleged Trump was part of an unlawful plan to suppress negative information — including an illegal payment of $130,000 that was ordered by the defendant to suppress information that would hurt his campaign.
The indictment alleges that the reason he committed the crime of falsifying business records was in part to “promote his candidacy.”
We allege Donald Trump and his associates repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters. Learn more from the Statement of Facts: https://t.co/j6QJTdpWk6
— Alvin Bragg (@ManhattanDA) April 4, 2023
Trump is now under arrest. His reaction moments before walking into the courthouse. pic.twitter.com/XbuJljaQAX
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) April 4, 2023
I’m not a legal expert, but if you’ve been following reports over the past couple of weeks, many legal pundits have their doubts about proving the business records were falsified in order to cover up another crime.
Do I think Trump is purposefully hid his payments to Stormy Daniels in order to improve his chances of winning the presidential election in 2016? Absolutely.
Whether or not Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team can make that case under current NY state law in front of a jury…We shall see.
A photo from the Manhattan courtroom shows former President Donald Trump at his arraignment, sitting with his lawyers, Joe Tacopina, Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche.
More here: https://t.co/Q9zCYIsoih pic.twitter.com/dLcQ0bzZOZ
— Bloomberg (@business) April 4, 2023