Former US President Donald Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, the Manhattan district attorney said on Tuesday afternoon.
Trump, who was arraigned at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City and became the first former US president to be criminally indicted, reportedly pleaded not guilty.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the indictment after Trump’s arraignment, accusing him of “falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”
During the election, Trump and others employed a “catch and kill” scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects, according to Bragg’s office in a press release.
Trump then tried to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws, the release alleged.
The New York State Supreme Court indictment cited three instances of hush-money payments to cover up former president’s alleged affairs.
A Republican who held the White House from early 2017 to early 2021 after winning the 2016 race, Trump has denied wrongdoing and stated that the criminal inquiry led by Bragg, a Democrat, is politically motivated.
Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche, speaking to reporters outside the Manhattan Criminal Court after Trump’s departure, revealed that his client is “frustrated” and “upset.”
“It’s not a good day,” Blanche said, adding that “you don’t expect this to happen … to somebody who was the president of the United States.”
Trump is travelling back to his Mar-a-Lago residence in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he will hold an event to address his indictment on Tuesday night, following the court appearance.
“Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!” he wrote on his social media platform “Truth Social” before arriving at the Manhattan Criminal Court earlier in the day.
Republicans have rallied behind Trump, criticizing that the justice system has been weaponized by the Democratic Party for political purposes since Trump, 76, is running for the White House again and is an early frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“Equal justice under the law, unless you’re a Republican running for president,” tweeted US Congressman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who serves as chairman of the House Republican Study Committee.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) said indictment “is wholly political and baseless” and suggested Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg—a “left-wing Democrat who hates Donald Trump”—is targeting him “by any means necessary.”
Democrats, by contrast, are seeking to cast the historic indictment as an accountability move and urging Trump supporters to remain peaceful while protesting.
“I believe that Donald Trump will have a fair trial that follows the facts and the law,” US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
“There’s no place in our justice system for any outside influence or intimidation in the legal process,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, added.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that President Joe Biden is aware of his predecessor’s arraignment but stressed that it is not the Democrat’s “focus.”
“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,” Jean-Pierre said.
In addition to the hush-money payment case, Trump is facing several other criminal investigations at the state and federal levels, including his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, his handling of classified documents, and his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Americans react to Trump’s indictment
Sixty percent of Americans approve of the indictment of Trump, according to a new CNN poll released on Monday.
Support for the indictment fell along party lines, with 94% of Democrats approving of the decision to indict the former president, while 79% of Republicans disapproved of the move to indict.
Besides, about three-quarters of Americans say politics played at least some role in the indictment, including 52% who said it played a major role, the CNN poll showed.