Donald Trump, the former U.S. President, has pleaded not guilty in a New York City court to multiple charges related to hush-money payments made before the 2016 presidential election. These charges include a payment made to an adult film actress. Trump, the first former American president to face criminal prosecution, arrived at a Manhattan courtroom just before 02:30 pm (18:30 GMT) on Tuesday to be formally arraigned on the allegations.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has unsealed an indictment against the Republican leader, charging him with thirty-four felony counts of falsifying business records in New York. The charges allege that Trump engaged in illegal activity and attempted to conceal damaging information from U.S. voters before and after the 2016 election. According to Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Trump’s “catch and kill scheme” involved three payoffs, including a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress.
Former US President Donald Trump has denied guilt for multiple charges connected to payments made to women before the 2016 presidential election, including a payment made to an adult film actress. The plea was entered in a New York City court.#Trump #TrumpIndicment #DonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/9RYQlL09cL
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) April 5, 2023
During a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor in charge of the case against the GOP leader, emphasized the importance of upholding the law and ensuring that all individuals are treated equally. “No amount of power or money can change the fundamental principle of equality before the law,” he added. Bragg stated that his office takes its responsibility seriously and will continue to do so.
Trump Pleads Not Guilty to Thirty-Four Charges in Manhattan Court
On Tuesday, Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie, sitting with his hands folded at the defense table alongside his legal time. Throughout the hour-long hearing, Trump remained silent, neither speaking as he entered the courtroom nor left. Despite facing 34 charges, the former president, who is running for re-election in 2024, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has called the case a “witch hunt.” The 76-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges, stating his plea in a clear voice.
Less than a week after a NY grand jury voted to indict him, Trump was arraigned in court. Trump’s critics have welcomed the move, which comes after years of allegations against the former president. However, the indictment has also drawn widespread criticism from top Republicans. It remains to be seen how the case will unfold and whether it will impact Trump’s political future, particularly as he seeks a potential re-election bid in 2024.
Trump’s Court Appearance Sparks Protest Amid Deep Political Divisions
The case against former President Trump has further exposed the deep political rifts in the United States, and concerns of potential violence resulted in a significant police presence ahead of Tuesday’s hearing. Throughout the day, both supporters and detractors of Trump gathered in rival protests near the courthouse. The tensions reflect the continuing polarisation of U.S. politics and the country’s challenges in bridging the divide between its factions.
The indictment against Trump has already drawn widespread attention, and its impact on the country’s political landscape remains to be seen. According to Jennifer Victor, an associate professor of political science at George Mason University, Trump’s base will likely see the case as politically motivated, a claim that the former president has repeatedly made. This could lead to further polarization as the legal proceedings continue. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Victor said the case will likely be a “very polarising type of affair.”
The New York Case
The New York investigation revolved around the $130,000 payment made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, during the final days of the former president’s 2016 campaign. Clifford allegedly claimed that she had an affair with Trump that began in 2006, and Cohen claimed that he paid her at Trump’s behest. The payment is seen as a violation of campaign finance laws and is one of the focal points of the indictment against Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of having an affair with Stormy Daniels and has stated that the payment was made to protect his reputation from false accusations. On the other hand, Bragg, the New York prosecutor, disclosed during the Tuesday hearing that $30,000 was made through a mediator to an ex-Trump Tower doorman who had alleged that Trump had a child out of wedlock. Trump has not publicly commented on the doorman’s allegation.
The other case in question pertains to a woman who was paid $150,000 by a U.S. tabloid to stay quiet about a supposed sexual relationship she had with Trump. While the charges combined hold a theoretical maximum sentence of more than a century in prison under New York law, the prison sentence would likely be much lower if Trump is guilty at trial. Although falsifying business records in New York is usually considered a minor crime with a maximum sentence of one year in prison, it becomes a more severe felony with a maximum sentence of four years if it is committed to facilitate or hide another offense.
Republicans and Democrats Split on Trump’s Indictment
On Tuesday, Republican politicians continued to express their support for former President Donald Trump, with Senator Ted Cruz describing the case as a “mockery of the rule of law.” Meanwhile, Democrats highlighted that the charges demonstrate that “nobody is above the law.” Congressman Adam Schiff took to Twitter to describe the arraignment of a former president on criminal charges as “a somber moment in the life of our country.” The polarized reactions highlight the deep political divisions in the U.S.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Bragg firmly dismissed the recent Republican allegations of political bias in the case, branding them as “baseless and inflammatory.” He further emphasized that the charges against Trump were severe crimes in New York State and insisted that no one, regardless of status, would be allowed to normalize such “serious criminal conduct.”
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