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Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in hush money probe

Trump Indictment
Posted at 2:10 PM, Apr 04, 2023

Former President Donald Trump was taken into custody and charged with 34 felony counts related to a hush money scheme on Tuesday. He entered a plea of not guilty during the 56-minute arraignment hearing.

Trump did not answer any questions while he was inside the Manhattan courtroom, immediately leaving for a return flight to his home in Florida.

SEE MORE: READ THE FULL INDICTMENT and STATEMENT OF FACTS

However, his attorney, Todd Blanche, addressed Trump's state of mind.
"He's frustrated, he's upset, but I'll tell you what, he's motivated, and it's not going to stop him, and it's not going to slow him down," Blanche told reporters.

Trump was under investigation for alleged hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. The payments were made in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors contend there were also two other instances of hush money payments being made on Trump's behalf.

WHAT THE CHARGES ALLEGE

The Manhattan District Attorney accuses Trump of concealing “damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”

His office alleged three instances of Trump employing “catch and kill” schemes to conceal information. Those payments, according to Bragg, became illegal by allegedly making false entries in business records.

One of the payments was allegedly made by American Media Inc., the former publishers of the National Enquirer, to a former Trump Tower doorman who allegedly had a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock.

A second alleged payment AMI made was to a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with Trump. Cohen said he arranged for former Playboy model Karen McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer, which squelched her story in a practice known as “catch-and-kill," the Associated Press reported.

A third alleged payment was made by a Trump lawyer just days before the presidential election for $130,000. Cohen has previously confirmed that he facilitated a $130,000 payment to Daniels.

“Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. "We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.

After previously expressing reservations about the case, Bragg said new evidence and witnesses gave him what he needed to pursue an indictment.

HOW TRUMP WAS INDICTED

Bragg took evidence to a grand jury, which consisted of 23 members who met in secret.

At least 12 of the 23 grand jurors agreed that there was probable cause — meaning it was likely but not certain — that a crime was committed.

Grand jurors are required to keep proceedings a secret. Most of what has been revealed about Trump's grand jury proceeding came from witnesses who aren't under the same obligation to remain quiet.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

It could take months, if not over a year, for Trump to go to trial.

Getting convicted is a much higher bar than being charged. Prosecutors must prove Trump committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Grand jurors are allowed to vote for an indictment even if they believe there is reasonable doubt— so long they believe it is likely a crime was committed.

Michael Scotto, who previously led the Manhattan District Attorney’s racketeering bureau, previously said the case against Trump is not a “slam dunk.”

“I'm not being critical of the prosecution’s case, but there certainly are issues here that would cause a judge to take some time and review the evidence and the nature of the charges and the applicable law,” Scotto said.