DemDaily: With Intent to Defraud and Conceal
April 4, 2023
Twice-impeached former President Donald Trump made history -- again -- today, becoming the first United States president to be charged with a crime.
At approximately 2:30pm, Trump was arraigned on a New York Supreme Court indictment, returned by a Manhattan grand jury, on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.
In a news conference following the court hearing, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said "the evidence will show" that Trump falsified the records, "to cover up crimes related to the 2016 election."
The charges surround a hush money scheme orchestrated by Trump, his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker and others to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom had previous affairs with Trump. Payments were also made to a Trump Tower doorman who'd claimed to know of a child Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock.
|"Under New York state law, it is a felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud and intent to conceal another crime. That is exactly what this is about. 34 false statements, made to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York State, no matter whio you are. We cannot and will not normlalize serious criminal conduct." - District Attorney Alvin Bragg
Flanked by exhibits, Bragg said, "During the election, Trump and others employed a 'catch and kill' scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects. Trump then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws."
All 34 felony counts fall under Article 175 of the New York Penal Law, with each count represents a separate instance of alleged misconduct, but not a different type of crime.
An uncharacteristically quite and somber Trump entered a firm "not guilty" plea before State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who also precided over the 2022 Trump Organization criminal case that resulted in 17 counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records against the company.
During the arraignment, Merchan also issued a strict warning to Trump to refrain from future rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest. Trump has used his social media site Truth Social to inflame his followers, calling for physical protest while blasting the judge personally and attacking Bragg and members of his family.
The prosecution has within 15 days of the arraignment to turn over all the "discovery" evidence gathered as part of the investigation to the defense team.
The defense usually has within 45 days of arraignment to file what is expected to be a barrage of motions to dismiss, but the judge has the discretion to grant it more time. Trump's next in-person court appearance is scheduled for December 4, 2023, but defense counsel has already asked the judge to waive his appearance.
They are also fighting prosecutors' request for a trial date in January 2024.
In the interim, Trump was released without bail and returned to Mar-a-Lago, his home in Palm Beach, Florida. He will be free to continue his normal life and schedule, including campaigning for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. An indictment, or conviction, does not disqualify Trump from running for president in 2024.
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Sources: Manhattan DA's Office, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, AP