The former president, 76, spoke to the press and supporters at his Florida home on Tuesday, April 4, following his arraignment in New York City. The Apprentice alum’s eldest daughter Ivanka, 41, and her husband, Jared Kushner — as well as his and Melania’s son Barron, 17 — were also not in attendance. Meanwhile, Donald Jr., 45, Eric, 39, and Tiffany, 29, were seen supporting their father at Mar-a-Lago with their respective partners.
The New York native was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records on Tuesday, April 4, becoming the first former U.S. president to be indicted on criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
During his speech, Donald thanked his wife and family for their support during his case against porn star Stormy Daniels — to whom he was accused of paying $130,000 in misused campaign fund to keep quiet about their alleged affair — though he didn’t mention Melanie by name.
“I have a great family and they’ve done a fantastic job and we appreciate it very much,” the businessman said during his speech. “They’ve gone through hell.”
Referring to Daniels, 44, specifically, he continued: “She’s suing me over banks that weren’t a fraud when she should be focused on violent crime that’s driving people out of the state. This is a persecution, not an investigation. She’s put our family through hell. It’s cost hundreds of millions of dollars to defend, but our heads are held very, very high.”
A New York grand jury voted to indict the former president on March 30 after the Manhattan district attorney’s office had been investigating Donald’s payment to Daniels for years. Attorney Michael Cohen allegedly arranged for the former reality TV star to pay the actress the $130,000 ahead of the 2016 election and was later reimbursed. Declared as “legal expenses,” the reimbursement payments falsely stated that Cohen was on retainer.
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 at the time. He was sentenced to three years in prison but was later released on house arrest in August 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donald claimed that his legal experts instructed him to pay Daniels and that 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,” he said on his social media site, Truth Social, on March 9. “I relied on counsel in order to resolve this extortion of me.”
He also encouraged supporters to protest his arrest, writing on March 18, “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION.”
Though Donald could face a few years of jail time if convicted, Brooklyn prosecutor Arthur Aidala told Insider on Tuesday that the chances of him being put behind bars are unlikely. “I can’t say for absolute 100 percent certainty there can’t be jail because on the books, he can go to jail,” Aidala stated, before adding, “I do not see a scenario where Donald Trump spends one minute in jail.”
Donald and Melania tied the knot in 2005 and welcomed their son one year later. The former model’s relationship with her husband has allegedly been strained in the past. “She is very, very unhappy with her life,” a family insider exclusively told Us Weekly in March 2018. “If she could, she would get away from Donald and just be with her son.”