Former United States President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to a slate of the 34 felony charges, unsealed on Tuesday at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.
The charges are the result of a grand-jury investigation into a hush-money payment the ex-president is accused of making to adult film star Stormy Daniels, shortly before the 2016 election.
Trump stands accused of falsifying business records in relation to that payment and several others, including to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both she and Daniels allege they had an affair with the ex-president.
“The defendant Donald Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 election,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
They explained that the payments were part of a “catch and kill” scheme to suppress negative information during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Trump arrived at the court in an eight-car motorcade escorted by Secret Service agents, waving to the crowds gathered outside the building.
Once inside, he was fingerprinted and processed, though he avoided being handcuffed or having a mugshot taken. It was a remarkable reckoning for the ex-president, after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings and an extraordinary moment in US history — making him the first US president ever to face criminal charges.
Trump was defiant in court and online, where he posted on his Truth Social platform that the proceedings were “SURREAL”, in all caps.
“Can’t believe this is happening in America,” he wrote, signing off with the acronym for his slogan, “Make America Great Again.”