Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony charges

In a historic first, former President Trump faces 34 felony counts for hush-money payment scheme


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Former U.S. president Donald Trump appears in court at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

Vanessa Moreno, News Editor

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on April 4 to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records with intent to commit or conceal other crimes. 

Charges connect to alleged hush-money payments to suppress sensitive stories about Trump during the 2016 elections. New York officials claim these were attempts to influence the election in his favor. 

“Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market,” New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. “We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.”

A statement of the facts claims Trump, former lawyer Michael Cohen and American Media, Inc. paid individuals for their silence. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 after claiming she had an affair with Trump. 

Cohen made the payment from his account, and Trump promised to reimburse him after the election.

“ … Lawyer A [Cohen] would be paid $420,000 through twelve monthly payments of $35,000 over the course of 2017,” Braggs wrote. “Each month, Lawyer A was to send an invoice to the Defendant through Trump Organization employees, falsely requesting payment for legal services …”

Trump Organization business records classified the payments as “legal expenses,” but Bragg claims Cohen did not provide legal services.

“The payment records, kept and maintained by the Trump Organization, were false New York business records,” the statement of the facts reads. “In truth, there were no retainer agreements, and Lawyer A [Cohen] was not being paid for legal services rendered in 2017.”

Cohen has since served jail time for his involvement in the hush-money payments. Trump claims his 34 charges are politically motivated, deeming the case a “witch hunt.”

“The Democrats are using Fake Prosecutions and Prosecutors to win elections,” he wrote on Truth Social. “It’s their tried and true form of cheating, now introduced to the U.S. at a level never seen before. They can’t win at the ballot box … so [they] are going Soviet. They are disgusting, and sooo bad for our Country!”

Following his court appearance, Trump delivered a speech from his Mar-a-Lago home, citing Judge Juan Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge.” Earlier, Merchan warned him against making comments inciting violence or civil unrest. 

“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,”Trump said about the charges. “I never thought it could happen. The only crime I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.” 

Throughout the United States, support for Trump is, for the most part, divided along party lines. Some expressed looking forward to “justice being served.”

“Our country was founded on the rule of law and the belief that no person, no matter how powerful or influential, is above the law,” McHenry County Democratic Party Chair Kristina Zahorik said for Shaw Local.

Trump has since urged Republicans in Congress to defund the Department of Justice and FBI “until they come to their senses.” His next hearing is on Dec. 4, with a trial coming in 2024.