Former US President, Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts connected to payments to buy the silence of an adult film actress during his 2016 campaign.
It was historic as he is the first former or sitting US president to be criminally charged.
The charges which include, but are not limited to, falsifying business records in the first degree were read at an arraignment hearing.
Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg, investigated payments Trump made to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen to pay $130,000 to actress Stephanie Clifford to stop her from disclosing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump earlier.
Trump was flanked at the defendant’s table by four of his attorneys: Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, Joe Tacopina and Boris Epshteyn.
There are multiple ongoing investigations involving Trump, including an investigation of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago; a criminal probe by the Justice Department of the Jan. 6 insurrection; an investigation into the Georgia election results; and the lawsuit over Trump’s business practices in New York.
Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg told reporters after the arraignment of Trump that a “thorough investigation” led to his office’s decision to charge Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
“This is the business capital of the world,” Bragg said about New York City. “We regularly do cases involving false business statements. The bedrock of the basis for business integrity and a well-functioning business marketplace is accurate record-keeping.”
Bragg conducted a grand jury investigation related to a $130,000 paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen before the 2016 presidential election.
Bragg alleged that Trump “repeatedly made false statements on New York business records” and “caused others to make false statements.”
“Why did Donald Trump repeatedly make these false statements?” Bragg said. “The evidence will show he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election.”
He accused Trump of “paying Mr. Cohen for fictitious legal services in 2017 to cover up actual crime committed the prior year.” To pay Cohen back, “they planned to mischaracterize the repayments to Mr. Cohen as income to the New York State tax authorities,” Bragg said.
It was reported that the indictment alleged a “catch and kill” scheme by Trump, Cohen and American Media Inc., which “agreed to identify and suppress negative stories about him.”
Cohen and American Media, Inc., have “admitted to committing illegal conduct in connection with the scheme,” according to court documents. In August 2018, AMI, the owner and publisher of magazines and supermarket tabloids including the National Enquirer, “admitted in a non-prosecution agreement that it made a payment to a source of a story to ensure that the source ‘did not publicize damaging allegations’ about the Defendant ‘before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election,’” according to prosecutors.
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