Trump pleads not guilty to 34 charges; admonished by judge
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump conspired to undermine the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments designed to stifle claims that could be harmful to his candidacy, prosecutors said Tuesday in unsealing a historic 34-count felony indictment against the former president.
Trump, stone-faced and silent as he entered and exited the Manhattan courtroom, said “not guilty” in a firm voice while facing a judge who warned him to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest.
The broad contours of the case have long been known, but the 16-page indictment contains new details about a scheme that prosecutors say involved multiple payoffs to two women, including a porn star, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with him years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president had out of of wedlock.
The arraignment, though largely procedural in nature, amounts to a remarkable reckoning for Trump after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings. The case is unfolding against the backdrop not only of his third campaign for the White House but also against other investigations in Washington and Atlanta that might yet produce even more charges.
Trump, his lips pursed in apparent anger, entered the courtroom shortly before 2:30 p.m. He left court about an hour later, also without commenting. All told, the voluble Trump spoke only about 10 words during the entire proceeding.
Before the arraignment, he narrated his feelings in real time, describing the experience as “SURREAL” as he traveled from Trump Tower to lower Manhattan to face a judge.
It represents the new split-screen reality for Trump as he submits to the dour demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an aura of defiance and victimhood at celebratory campaign events.
Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed. He arrived at court in an eight-car motorcade from Trump Tower, communicating in real time his anger at the process.
“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse,” he posted on his Truth Social platform. “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
Trump, who was impeached twice by the U.S. House but was never convicted in the U.S. 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.
“He is strong and ready to go,” Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told The Associated Press. Earlier, Tacopina said in a TV interview that the former president wouldn’t plead guilty to lesser charges, even if it might resolve the case. He also said he didn’t think the case would make it to a jury.
The investigation is scrutinizing six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.