Trump speaks to supporters after pleading not guilty to falsifying business records

NEW YORK — Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree during a historic arraignment.

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A grand jury in Manhattan indicted Trump last week, making him the first president to face criminal charges. Records unsealed Tuesday and released by prosecutors showed Trump was accused of entering false business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”

The former president has vehemently denied wrongdoing, calling the indictment politically motivated as the 2024 presidential election looms.

See the latest updates:

Trump: ‘I never thought this could happen in America’

Update 8:33 p.m. EDT April 4: Former President Donald Trump walked through a cheering crowd at Mar-a-Lago as they chanted “USA.” Trump mingled with supporters as the song “God Bless the USA” played in the background.

“I never thought this could happen in America,” Trump told the crowd while delivering remarks. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”

He called the charges an “insult to our country” and suggested that “other countries were laughing at us.”

Trump did not refer directly to Tuesday’s arraignment but did reference possible litigation in Washington and Atlanta. He also spoke about District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his family.

“They can’t beat us through the ballot box, so they try to beat us with the law,” Trump said.

Trump spoke for approximately 30 minutes.

He called the judge in the Manhattan case a “Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Supporters gather at Mar-a-Lago

Update 8:02 p.m. EDT April 4: Supporters gathered at Mar-a-Lago as former President Donald Trump prepared to speak, hours after he was arraigned in a New York City court on 34 felony charges.

The guests included longtime Trump supporters Roger Stone, Mike Lindell, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Trump’s aircraft lands in Florida

Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 4: Former President Donald Trump has arrived in West Palm Beach, Florida, landing at Palm Beach International Airport, WPTV reported. Trump will head from the airport to his Mar-a-Lago residence in nearby Palm Beach, where he is scheduled to deliver remarks at about 8:15 p.m. EDT.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Trump’s next in-person hearing set for Dec. 4

Update 6:20 p.m. EDT April 4: Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York City has set the next in-person hearing for Dec. 4, The Hill and CNN reported. The date for Trump’s next scheduled appearance is approximately two months before the official start of the 2024 Republican primary races, according to The Hill.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Trump posts on social media: ‘Nothing done illegally’

Update 6:08 p.m. EDT April 4: Former President Donald Trump posted from his Truth Social account as his aircraft left New York for his Florida residence in Palm Beach.

Trump said he would be delivering remarks at his Mar-a-Lago residence at 8:15 p.m. and called Tuesday’s proceeding “shocking” because the district attorney’s office had no “surprises.”

“Virtually every legal pundit has said there is no case here,” Trump wrote. “There was nothing done illegally!”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Trump heading back to Florida after arraignment

Update 4:55 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump has boarded his plane to return to Florida following his arraignment earlier in the day.

Prosecutor highlight payments to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, Trump doorman

Update 4:50 p.m. EDT April 4: In a statement of facts unsealed on Tuesday, authorities said payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a Trump Tower doorman were part of an unlawful scheme aimed at getting Trump into the White House.

“During and in furtherance of his candidacy for President, the Defendant and others agreed to identify and suppress negative stories about him,” prosecutors said in the statement. “Two parties to this agreement have admitted to committing illegal conduct in connection with the scheme.”

In 2018, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. Cohen admitted to submitting false invoices to the Trump Organization to get reimbursement for unlawful campaign contributions made in the form of payments to Daniels and McDougal. He said in federal court that he coordinated with Trump to make the payments, which were aimed at influencing the election.

Officials with media company American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, said in a non-prosecution agreement that same year that it made a payment to McDougal to ensure that she “did not publicize damaging allegations” about Trump “before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election,” according to prosecutors and previous reports.

Charges against Trump related to payments made to 3 people

Update 4:35 p.m. EDT April 4: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the charges filed against Trump are “not just about one payment” made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“Donald Trump, executives at the publishing company American Media Inc., Mr. Cohen and others agreed in 2015 to a catch-and-kill scheme. That is a scheme to buy and suppress negative information to help Mr. Trump’s chance of winning the election,” Bragg said.

“As part of this scheme, Donald Trump and others made three payments to people who claimed to have negative information about Mr. Trump. To make these payments, they set up shell companies and they made yet more false statements, including for example in AMI – American Media Inc.’s – business records.”

Under New York law, it’s a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.

Prosecutor: Trump made false statements on business records to cover crimes related to 2016 presidential election

Update 4:20 p.m. EDT April 4: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the charges filed against Trump were related payments made “to cover up actual crime committed” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The former president was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty.

Bragg said Trump made “Thirty-four false statements ... to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York State no matter who you are.”

The prosecutor added that for nine straight months, Trump held documents that said he was paying his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for legal services. In truth, the marked funds were reimbursement after Cohen paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she said she had years earlier.

Trump attorney: ‘It’s a sad day’

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump attorney Todd Blanche told reporters outside the courthouse in New York that Tuesday was “not a good day,” after his client was arraigned on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

“It’s a sad day,” he said, accusing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of turning “what is a political issue into a political prosecution.”

“It’s sad and we’re going to fight it,” Blanche said. “We’re going to fight it hard.”

Read the indictment, statement of facts released Tuesday

Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 4: Prosecutors on Tuesday released an indictment filed against Trump and a statement of facts related to the charges following the former president’s court appearance.

Former president leaves court after arraignment

Update 3:30 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump left a New York courthouse on Tuesday afternoon after being arraigned on 34 counts of falsifying business records, according to The New York Times. The former president pleaded not guilty.

He did not speak to reporters.

Trump pleads not guilty

Update 2:55 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to 34 felony counts of first-degree falsifying business records, according to The Washington Post.

Court hearing to start shortly

Update 2:45 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump’s arraignment is set to begin shortly in New York.

Before the president responds to the charges filed against him, an attorney representing several news organizations — including The New York Times — will argue in favor of giving the media broader access to the courtroom, the Times reported.

Judge Juan Merchan on Monday declined a media request to allow video cameras and radio journalists into the courtroom, according to the newspaper. Typically, cameras are not allowed in New York courtrooms.

Trump did not speak before going into court

Update 2:30 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump declined to speak to reporters as he walked to a courtroom on Tuesday ahead of his arraignment.

Earlier, reports surfaced that the former president would speak to cameras before and after his arraignment.

‘I believe that Donald Trump will have a fair trial,’ Schumer says

Update 2:25 p.m. EDT April 4: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he believes the former president will have “a fair trial that follows the facts and the law” ahead of Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday.

“There’s no place in our justice system for any outside influence or intimidation in the legal process,” Schumer added in a statement posted on Twitter. “As the trial proceeds, protest is an American right, but all protests must be peaceful.”

Trump turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday afternoon. He is expected to appear shortly for an arraignment following a grand jury indictment last week.

Trump: ‘Seems so SURREAL’

Update 1:45 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump posted on social media as he headed for the Manhattan courthouse where he is set to be arraigned later Tuesday, writing that it “seems so SURREAL.”

“WOW, they are going to ARREST ME,” he wrote. “Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

Trump arrives at courthouse

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT April 4: About an hour before his scheduled arraignment, Trump arrived Tuesday at a New York City courthouse to surrender to authorities following his indictment last week.

Former president leaves Trump Tower for courthouse

Update 1:10 p.m. EDT April 4: Trump has left Trump Tower in New York City en route to a courthouse, where he is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m.

Trump arrest not the first for a US president

Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 4: Trump’s indictment is historic as the first time a president has faced criminal charges but it’s not the first time a president has faced arrest.

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant was cited for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage.

Trump expected to plead not guilty to charges

Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 4: Trump is expected to enter a not-guilty plea when he appears in a New York courtroom on Tuesday afternoon.

“One thing I can assure you as I sit here today: They’ll be no guilty plea in this case. That’s the one thing I can guarantee you,” Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”

“I don’t think this case is going to see a jury. I think it’s going to go away on papers. I think there’s a legal challenge that will be made and should be made successfully.”

Tacopina acknowledged that the former president’s legal team has yet to see the indictment filed under seal against their client.

“They have not shared it with us, won’t share it with us until it’s unsealed,” he said. “But we know the basis of the indictment and the factual allegations in the indictment.”

Reports indicate the charges are related to a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election that was aimed at keeping her from talking about an affair she said she had years earlier with Trump.

NYC authorities urge people to remain peaceful ahead of Trump arraignment

Update 10:25 a.m. EDT April 4: Authorities in New York City on Monday said they were prepared to deal with any disruptions caused by the upcoming arraignment of Trump.

“We will not allow violence or vandalism of any kind and if one is caught participating in any act of violence, they will be arrested and held accountable, no matter who you are,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

Some protesters and counter-protesters have begun to gather outside the courthouse where Trump is set to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

“While there may be some rabble-rousers thinking about coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves,” Adams said on Monday. “New York City is our home not a playground for your misplaced anger.”

Trump suggests moving case to Staten Island

Update 10:10 a.m. EDT April 4: In a social media post Tuesday morning, Trump suggested moving the case against him to Staten Island, saying that it is currently set in a “VERY UNFAIR VENUE, WITH SOME AREAS THAT VOTED 1% REPUBLICAN.”

The former president also accused “RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRATS” of having “CRIMINALIED THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.”


Manhattan DA arrives at courthouse ahead of arraignment

Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 4: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg arrived at the courthouse Tuesday ahead of the scheduled arraignment of Trump.

The former president has attacked Bragg as a politically motivated prosecutor and on Monday called for his resignation.

Cameras will not be allowed in courtroom, judge rules

Update 9:30 EDT April 4: A judge on Monday ruled against allowing video and radio reporters to broadcast Tuesday’s court hearing live following a request by news organizations, The New York Times reported.

Cameras are typically not allowed in New York courtrooms, according to the newspaper. Judge Juan Merchan on Monday said five still photographers would be allowed to take photographs at the start of the hearing, the Times reported.

Trump expected to speak before and after arraignment

Update 9:20 a.m. EDT April 4: An attorney for Trump told CNN on Tuesday that he expects the former president will talk to reporters before and after his arraignment in New York.

Earlier, officials with Trump’s 2024 presidential bid said he will deliver remarks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at 8:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

Trump traveled to New York on Monday

Update 9:10 a.m. EDT April 4: Trump traveled from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to Trump Tower in New York on Monday afternoon.

The former president said in a post on social media that he planned to go to the courthouse on Tuesday morning. He is expected to be processed before appearing for an arraignment scheduled at 2:15 p.m.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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