Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges brought against him by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in connection with a years long investigation into a hush money payment made in the closing days of the 2016 election, marking the first time in U.S. history a president has been charged with a crime.
Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, all of which he pleaded not guilty to. All of them are “class E” felonies, the lowest felony category in New York that carry a maximum sentence of four years each.
Each criminal charge Trump is facing relates to a specific entry in the Trump Organization’s business records, according to the indictment. Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” one, and prosecutors argue that Trump violated election law by trying to suppress negative information before the 2016 election.
The next court date is scheduled for Dec. 4, just weeks before voting in the 2024 Republican Presidential primaries will begin.
The former president and his attorneys did not say anything while walking into and out of the courtroom. Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social that prosecutors have “no case” and said nothing had been done illegally.
“The hearing was shocking to many in that they had no ‘surprises,’ and therefore no case. Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!”
After the hearing, Trump’s attorneys again accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of conducting a partisan criminal case against the former president.
“The district attorney has turned what is actually a completely political issue into a political persecution,”
In a press conference after the hearing, Bragg said his office has a history of prosecuting white collar crimes and cases involving falsifying business records is the “bread and butter” of its work.
“This case today is one with allegations like so many of our white collar cases, allegations that someone lied again and again to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable, As this office has done, time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law, no amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.”
In the statement of facts included in the indictment, prosecutors allege Trump orchestrated a “catch and kill scheme,” where payments were made to people to keep unflattering information about him being made public. Prosecutors also allege those payments were made and concealed through months of false business entries.