Donald Trump, the first former US President to be criminally charged, has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his arraignment in a Manhattan court on charges relating to hush money payments made to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election.
The 76-year-old former Republican president, was arrested when he arrived to surrender at the Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday.
Trump, who became the first former US president to be indicted, arrested and arraigned on criminal charges, pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges of falsifying business records in person before State Supreme Court Justice Juan M Merchan.
Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, a stone-faced Trump walked into the courtroom and said “not guilty” in a firm voice while facing the judge.
Speaking outside court after the arraignment, Trump's attorney Todd Blanche said that his client is "frustrated" and "upset." He accused the prosecutor of turning a "completely political issue" into a "political prosecution."
Charges against Trump
On the charges against Trump, Blanche said: "We're going to fight it, fight it hard."
The historic indictment against Trump was unsealed on Tuesday, providing the public and Trump’s legal team with details about the charges against him for the first time.
It includes charges of falsifying business records in connection with a hush payment that Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.
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 the negative information that would hurt his presidential campaign.
The reason he committed the crime of falsifying business records was in part to “promote his candidacy,” the indictment alleges.
Trump hid reimbursement payments to Cohen by marking monthly checks for “legal services,” according to the statement of facts, in a deal the two worked out in the Oval Office.
The payments stopped after December 2017, according to the document.
The next in-person hearing date for Trump’s case is set for December 4 in New York, CNN reported, adding that the former president has departed New York en route to Florida.
Trump flew back back to his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, where he addressed a crowd in a roughly 25-minute speech.
He repeated many of his campaign talking points and argued that he has been the victim of a Democratic conspiracy to tank his re-election bid.
Trump said he "never thought anything like this could happen in America" on Tuesday night after he was arraigned in New York City.
Also read: Can Trump weather the storm?
"The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it," Trump said in Florida.
He criticised the indictment levelled against him, saying he is “going through a fake investigation” that “turned out to be a sham.” "Let me be as clear as possible: I am Innocent. The only offense I have committed is to defend America from those who seek to destroy it. What we’ve witnessed is election interference in the highest order,” he said.
“Let me assure you – I have never been more determined than I am right now. They will not beat me. They will not break me. They will not stop me from fighting to save this country. The more they try to frame me, slander me, and destroy me, the stronger my resolve to complete our mission,” Trump said.
He did not even spare the judge, Juan Merchan, who is overseeing his case. The former president alleged that he is a “Trump hating judge” with a “Trump hating wife” and family “whose daughter works for Kamala house and now receives money from the Biden Harris campaign".
Trump's speech came after the judge did not place a gag order on him but warned him that the issue would be revisited if the ex-president continued with his heated rhetoric about the case.
A gag order would have prohibited Trump, his attorneys, other parties and witnesses from speaking about the case publicly.
Shortly after Trump was put under arrest, his campaign released a mugshot picture of him on a t-shirt saying not guilty.
A large crowd had gathered in front of the courtroom ahead of his arraignment.
Trump’s attorneys earlier said the Republican leader, eying the White House for a second time in 2024, will plead not guilty to the criminal charges he is facing.
"Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL - WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!" Trump posted to Truth Social as he was en route to the courthouse.
Security was tightened in New York, in particular the courthouse in lower Manhattan, as hundreds of Trump’s supporters landed in the city to rally behind him. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has warned against any breaking of law and order.
The White House refrained from making a comment on the developments in New York except for saying that it's a legal matter.
"It’s an ongoing case, so we're just not going to comment on the case specifically itself, but the president is going to focus on the American people like he does every day. This is not something that is a focus for him," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference.
"He is going to focus on things like making sure that …continue to lower prices for the American people,” she said.
"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,” she said in response to a question.
President Joe Biden, she said, was not given a heads-up on Trump’s indictment. "He was briefed by his chief of staff and he learned about this just like all of you through the reporting. Our focus right now is on the American people. I'm just not going to comment on any ongoing case,” she said.
News outlets were not allowed to broadcast Trump’s arraignment.
Hours before his arraignment, Trump sent an email to his supporters, which he claimed was the last one before his arrest, saying that the United States is becoming a "Marxist Third World" country and took to social media to question the fairness of the judiciary.
"My last email before my arrest," Trump said in the subject line of the email. "Today, we mourn the loss of justice in America. Today is the day that a ruling political party ARRESTS its leading opponent for having committed NO CRIME," Trump wrote.
"As I will be out of commission for the next few hours, I want to take this moment to THANK YOU for all of your support. I am blown away by all of the donations, support, and prayers we have received. It’s sad to see what’s happening - not for myself - but for our country,” he said.
In less than 24 hours after being indicted, he raised more than $4 million.
"A sad day for our nation, even as we pay the highest price to prove that we are a nation of laws: no one is above the law, and now former President Trump stands indicted with 34 counts and is protected, like every American, with every Constitutional protection, including presumptive-innocence and the all-powerful right to confront the witnesses against him," Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra said after the former president pleaded not guilty.
“Trump is a textbook on positive thinking, he can convert any grave situation against him, to his best possible advantage. He will convert this week's New York case, as a stepping stone to win back the White House in 2024,” Al Mason, a die-hard supporter of the former president, said in a statement.
Since news of his indictment first broke, the Trump campaign has raised millions and his poll numbers are skyrocketing, he said, adding that more Democrat and independent voters are moving to his side.
“God is with President Trump. He is a very good man. He will emerge even stronger after his arraignment today. In fact, this arrest of Trump is a blessing in disguise for Trump,” Mason said.
Sridhar Chityala, advisor, Vedas Group, said that the Trump drama in Manhattan is a continuation of the political witch-hunt that Democrats have engaged themselves in for the past seven years.
“This will badly misfire. All these allegations were dismissed before. Trump will come out stronger,” he said in response to a question.