Former president Donald Trump was arraigned in New York City on Tuesday, April 4. He is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.
The 76-year-old was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. He surrendered at the courthouse and was fingerprinted shortly before his arraignment, where he pleaded not guilty. Trump is expected to return to Mar-a-Lago to give a speech on Tuesday night.
New York Supreme Court Justice Juan M. Merchan rejected requests by several media networks to broadcast the proceedings.
News broke that a grand jury in New York City voted to indict Trump on Thursday, March 30. The charges were not made clear until the arraignment.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a [state] Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,” the spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney confirmed in a statement on Thursday, March 30, via NBC News.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has been investigating the former president for several years. District Attorney Alvin Bragg presented evidence to a New York grand jury about a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford).
Ahead of the 2016 election, attorney Michael Cohen arranged for the real estate mogul to pay Daniels $130,000 and was later reimbursed by Trump. The reimbursement payments were declared “legal expenses” and falsely claimed that Cohen was on retainer. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York, but the charge can become a felony if prosecutors show that the Trump falsified records with the intention to commit or conceal a second crime, per the New York Times.
Two years later, Cohen pleaded guilty to concealing income from the IRS, making false statements and “causing $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate,” according to the Justice Department. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. (He was released early on house arrest in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Trump has said that Daniels was paid at the advice of legal experts and claimed he was being extorted. “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels,” the New York native said via Truth Social, his social media site, on March 9. “I relied on counsel in order to resolve this extortion of me.”
The Trump University co-founder told followers on March 18 that he expected to be arrested the following week amid alleged leaks from the Manhattan DA’s office.
“Illegal leaks from a corrupt & highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office … indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven … the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
A spokesperson for Trump noted that they were not officially informed of an arrest. “There has been no notification, other than illegal leaks from the Justice Dept. and the DA’s office, to NBC and other fake news carriers, that the George Soros-funded Radical Left Democrat prosecutor in Manhattan has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level. President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system,” a Trump spokesperson said on Saturday via Fox News.
Trump went on to encourage followers to protest his arrest. “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION,” he wrote. Previously, his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, after he lost the 2020 election.
Trump served as the 45th president of the United States of America for one term, from 2017 to 2021. He lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, but he still maintains (without evidence) that he won. He announced in November 2022 that he planned to run for president again as the Republican nominee in 2024.
The Art of the Deal author is the father of five children. He shared Donald Jr., 45, Ivanka, 41, and Eric, 29, with the late Ivana Trump, to whom he was married from 1977 to 1992. (Ivana died in July 2022 at age 73 due to an accidental fall, causing “blunt impact injuries” to her torso.) The former Apprentice host married Marla Maples in 1993, and they welcomed daughter Tiffany, 29. He married current wife Melania Trump in 2005, and their son Barron, 17, was born the following year. Trump is also a grandfather to eight grandchildren.