Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 hush money charges after historic arrest in New York

4 April 2023, 19:47 | Updated: 5 April 2023, 02:23

Donald Trump pleaded not guilty
Donald Trump pleaded not guilty. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 charges related to hush money payments to an adult film star on Tuesday evening after becoming the first former US president to be arrested.

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The former president was hit with 34 felony charges of falsifying business records, some or all of which relate to payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair in 2006. He denies having a sexual relationship with the actress.

The full details of the charges show that the charges are related to payments made between February and December 2017. His next court date has been set for December 4.

In a series of posts following the hearing, Mr Trump said "there is no case" when it comes to his indictment and "nothing was done illegally".

He accused New York district attorney Alvin Bragg of shutting the city down and bringing in "38,000 NYPD officers".

He added: "The hearing was shocking to many in that they had no 'surprises' and therefore, no case.

"Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!"

Mr Trump's lawyers tried to downplay the case after the hearing. Joe Tacopina told reporters: "I was surprised there were no facts in there. Normally in an indictment you'd have alleged facts."

Meanwhile, Mr Bragg, who is leading the prosecution against Mr Trump, said: "The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump in court on Tuesday
Donald Trump in court on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

"Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct."

He added that "the trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws."

Speaking in a press conference after the hearing, Mr Bragg said the former president "repeatedly made false statements on New York business records" and caused others to make false statements.

He said Mr Trump claimed he paid his former lawyer Michael Cohen for legal services in 2017, but this "simply wasn't true". 

"For nine straight months the defendant held documents in his hand containing this key lie, and he personally signed checks paying Michael Cohen for each of these nine months.

"The grand jury found there were 34 documents with this critical false statement."

Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his arraignment
Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his arraignment. Picture: Alamy

The judge reportedly criticised Mr Trump for "highly partisan" social media posts" during the hearing.

Before his arraignment, Mr Trump had accused Judge Juan Merchan of "hating him".

The judge said he would not issue a 'gag order' on the former president to stop him and his lawyers from speaking about the case in public.

Speaking outside, his lawyer Susan Necheles said: "[Mr Trump]'s not going after the judge. He noted there were some issues that might cause a conflict."

Another lawyer for Mr Trump, Joe Tacopina, also denied that his client had threatened Alvin Bragg in a social media post, saying he "wasn't swinging a baseball bat".

The scene outside the courtroom ahead of Mr Trump's arraignment
The scene outside the courtroom ahead of Mr Trump's arraignment. Picture: Alamy

Mr Trump left the courthouse shortly before 8.30pm without speaking to reporters, having arrived at about 6.25pm UK time on Tuesday.

Inside the courtroom, Mr Trump was arrested and processed, with officials taking his fingerprints. He then headed to the courtroom where he entered his 'not guilty' plea personally.

Mr Trump said earlier that the whole affair was "surreal".

"Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME," Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. "Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!".

Donald Trump leaving Trump Tower on Tuesday
Donald Trump leaving Trump Tower on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy
Supporters of former US president Donald Trump drive down Fifth Avenue
Supporters of former US president Donald Trump drive down Fifth Avenue. Picture: Getty
US President Donald Trump (C) departs in a motorcade from Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida
US President Donald Trump (C) departs in a motorcade from Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida. Picture: Getty

The former president returned to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Tuesday evening.

Read more: Day of the Don: Donald Trump formally arrested in New York over alleged hush money payments

Authorities had been expecting a significant public backlash during the indictment, with presiding judge, Judge Merchan, banning cameras, mobile phones and other digital devices from the courtroom during the hearing.

Opponents of Donald Trump outside the courthouse
Opponents of Donald Trump outside the courthouse. Picture: Getty

Outside the court ahead of the hearing, Congresswoman and prominent Trump backer Marjorie Taylor Greene has been leading a group of chanting supporters protesting the indictment.

She compared the former president to Jesus and Nelson Mandela, saying he was "joining some of the most incredible people in history" with his arrest.

New York Grand Jury Votes To Indict Former President Trump
New York Grand Jury Votes To Indict Former President Trump. Picture: Getty
A supporter of former US president Donald Trump argues with opponents outside the Manhattan District Attorney's office in New York City
A supporter of former US president Donald Trump argues with opponents outside the Manhattan District Attorney's office in New York City. Picture: Getty
A Trump supporter argues with an Anti-Trump protester after she removed an Anti-Trump banner from her outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse
A Trump supporter argues with an Anti-Trump protester after she removed an Anti-Trump banner from her outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Picture: Getty

And in a statement earlier asking supporters for money, Donald Trump JR said: “It’s hard to believe something so tyrannical could happen in America… 

"But this is the reality of our country now that the Radical Left Democrats run America. 

"As you know – and as I’ve personally witnessed my entire life – my father is a WARRIOR.

"He will not let this sham indictment stop our mission to Make America Great Again! Our movement will prevail – just as we’ve prevailed after every other vicious attack."

Former President Donald Trump's aides and legal team exit his plane after arriving in New York
Former President Donald Trump's aides and legal team exit his plane after arriving in New York. Picture: Alamy

Mr Trump, 76, wrote "WITCH HUNT" online on his Truth Social social media platform before travelling to New York.

Dozens of police and court officers, and Secret Service agents will escort Mr Trump through the streets of New York to the Lower Manhattan court complex later.

The indictment includes multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offence, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The investigation has looked into six-figure payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Both say they had sexual encounters with Trump years before he entered politics.

Trump denies having sexual encounters with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.

Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower
Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower. Picture: Getty

Read more: Did Donald Trump get arrested?

Read more: 'We're ready for this fight': Trump's lawyer says they will vigorously fight charges made against him

The former president and his allies have been on the attack since he was charged on Thursday, labelling the indictment a "politically-motivated witch hunt".

In a statement last week, Trump said: "This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history".

He continued: "The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to 'get Trump', but now they've done the unthinkable - indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference."

Former President Donald Trump's motorcade departs his Mar-a-Lago home
Former President Donald Trump's motorcade departs his Mar-a-Lago home. Picture: Alamy
The plane carrying former president Donald Trump lifts off at Palm Beach International Airport,
The plane carrying former president Donald Trump lifts off at Palm Beach International Airport,. Picture: Alamy

Trump left his home in Mar-a-Lago shortly after midday on Monday for the journey to the airport.

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