Donald Trump

Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34-Count Felony Indictment in Manhattan Hush Money Case

Donald Trump is the first U.S. president, sitting or former, to be charged criminally. He denies wrongdoing.

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What to Know

  • Former President Donald Trump pleaded no guilty before a Manhattan judge Tuesday on charges of falsifying business documents before returning to Florida to deliver a public address from Mar-a-Lago.
  • Hundreds of protesters on both sides flanked streets around Trump Tower in midtown and the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, including appearances by several members of the U.S. Congress.
  • The 76-year-old Trump also faces separate criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington D.C.

A stone-faced Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday in connection with a 34-count felony Manhattan grand jury indictment claiming he illegally influenced the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments, cementing him in history as the first U.S. president, sitting or former, to be criminally charged.



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The 76-year-old Trump denied dozens of charges of falsifying business records for his alleged role in hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels as his 2016 presidential campaign wrapped up. The indictment was unsealed in a brief proceeding before Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over the trial of the Trump Organization's former chief financial officer.

The statement of facts released alongside the indictment offers a more detailed account of the alleged crimes in Trump's "catch and kill" scheme during a two-year period to keep potentially damning information from preventing the former president's path to the White House.

As alleged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the charges arose from a series of checks that Trump or his company wrote during the presidential campaign to his lawyer and fixer for his role in making a payment to a porn actor who alleged an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

The payments were part of “an unlawful plan to identify and suppress negative information that could have undermined his campaign for president," Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy said in court. They were made to “protect his candidacy," Conroy added.

Read the full indictment here.

The broad contours of the case have long been known, but the indictment contains new details about a scheme that prosecutors say began months into his presidential candidacy in 2015, as his celebrity past collided with his presidential ambitions. It centers on payoffs to two women, including Daniels, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with him years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president had out of of wedlock.

All 34 counts against Trump are linked to a series of checks that were written to Trump’s personal lawyer and problem-solver, Michael Cohen, to reimburse him for his role in paying off Daniels. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded in various internal company documents as being for a legal retainer that prosecutors say didn’t exist.

Cohen testified before the grand jury and is expected to be a star prosecution witness. Nine of those monthly checks were paid out of Trump’s personal accounts, but records related to them were maintained in the Trump Organization’s data system.

Prosecutors allege that the first instance of Trump directing hush money payments came in the fall of 2015, when a former Trump Tower doorman was trying to sell information about an alleged out-of-wedlock child fathered by Trump.

David Pecker, a Trump friend and the publisher of the National Enquirer, made a $30,000 payment to the doorman to acquire the exclusive rights to the story, pursuant to an agreement to protect Trump during his presidential campaign, according to the indictment. Pecker’s company later determined the doorman’s story was false, but at Cohen’s urging is alleged to have enforced the doorman’s confidentiality until after Election Day.

In a press conference following former President Donald Trump’s arraignment, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg detailed the 34-count indictment.

The investigation also concerns six-figure payments made to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.

Early reports from the courtroom had indicated the indictment included conspiracy charges, and prosecutors had alleged in court that Trump engaged in an "illegal conspiracy," but those charges were not present in the released documents.

The former president is due back in court at the end of the year, in December. His lawyers asked about excusing Trump from attending in person due to the extraordinary security measures, but as of now, Trump is expected to appear. Judge Juan Merchan said he would not impose a gag order, for now, but did urge both sides to not say anything that may cause violence, or jeopardize the safety of individuals.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not indicated whether he plans to seek jail time in the event of a conviction.

"At it's core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white-collar cases, allegations that someone lied again and again to protect their interests," Bragg explained at a press conference following the arraignment.


Prosecutors raised concerns about what they said were irresponsible social media posts they said targeted people in the case, including grand jury witnesses and Bragg. They specifically pointed to posts Trump made that warned of “potential death and destruction” if he were to be indicted.

The judge said he was not imposing a gag order at this point but asked both sides to refrain from making comments or engaging in comments that could lead to civil unrest.

Trump spoke briefly. He told the judge he was pleading “not guilty” to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and he was advised of his rights. Trump stayed mostly still, his hands steepled or interlaced, and looked ahead during the proceedings that lasted just over an hour.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said during the hearing: “He is absolutely frustrated, upset and believes that there is a great injustice happening in this courtroom today.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Trump left the courtroom ignoring questions from reporters down the hall and left in his motorcade bound for LaGuardia Airport.

When it finally came time to surrender, Trump waved to throngs of people, some decrying his indictment, others lauding it, as he headed into Manhattan Criminal Court, where hundreds gathered to bear as close witness as possible to the historic proceedings.

The former president was informed of his arrest, then processed, fingerprinted and arraigned on the 15th floor, Part 59 in the Manhattan Criminal Court building. No mugshot was taken, sources said. He looked soberly at the reporters lining the hallway as he headed in for his arraignment, which happened in the same courtroom where Harvey Weinstein was tried and convicted of rape and sexual assault in February 2020.

Trump and his defense team have repeatedly and vociferously denied any wrongdoing.

As his motorcade headed to the courthouse, a 4-mile drive from Trump Tower earlier in the day, the former president posted a message on his Truth Social account that read, "Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!"

Hundreds of people -- from media to gawkers to supporters and protesters -- flanked the streets outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, where U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was quickly whisked away by her security team as chaos intensified, and Trump Tower in midtown, where NYPD barricades have been in place since last week.

Trump Arraignment Day: Scenes From Manhattan Courthouse

The developments may have significant implications for the 2024 presidential election. The 76-year-old Trump has insisted he would continue to seek the Republican nomination even if the grand jury voted to indict.

Legally, an indictment does not block him from running. Prosecutors haven't said if they planned to seek prison time in the event of a conviction, though that also wouldn't preclude Trump from running for president or winning next year. Each count of falsifying business records, a felony, is punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s not clear if a judge would impose any prison time if Trump is convicted. 

For a man whose presidency was defined by one obliterated norm after another, the indictment sets up yet another never-before-seen spectacle.

A grand jury has voted to indict former President Donald Trump, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Here's what the case is all about.

Trump Denial and Next Steps

Flanked by American flags, Trump delivered a campaign-style speech to cheering supporters at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night. If his lawyers told him to stay away from talking about the indictment, and to stop criticizing Bragg, Trump did not follow their advice.

He was defiant, referring, among other things, to his two impeachment trials during his presidency. He called the New York indictment the latest in an “onslaught of fraudulent investigations.”

“This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately,” Trump said.

He said that "every single pundit said there's no case," adding that DA Bragg is a "criminal" for leaking grand jury information. Trump said Bragg should be prosecuted or "at a minimum" resign. He also lashed out at the judge presiding over the New York case, despite being warned hours earlier by the judge to refrain from rhetoric that could cause civil unrest.

It was not immediately clear if his comments could potentially get him into further legal trouble.

Among the room of supporters were defeated Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, voter fraud evangelist Mike Lindell and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Ronny Jackson, R-Texas.

"We are a nation in decline, and now these radical left lunatics want to interfere in elections by using law enforcement," Trump said. "We can’t let that happen."

His speech was under 30 minutes, short by his standards, and Trump seemed more subdued than his normal boisterous self. But his words and accusations were as vitriolic as ever.

Eric Trump said in a tweet that the DA's office is "spending an estimated $200 million of city funds" for the case, a number which includes the costs of more police being on put on duty. City Hall Spokesman Fabien Levy rejected that notion, saying "Neither Donald Trump nor Eric Trump have the slightest idea how math works."

A spokesperson for the former president told NBC New York that Trump is focused on the reelection campaign, and touted a supposed surge in poll numbers even since news of the indictment broke out. When Trump has to go back to Manhattan for his next court date, the spokesman said "we’ll do this all over again."

Trump's team has denied wrongdoing throughout the investigation and vociferously did so again Tuesday. Tacopina said the former president didn't commit any crime and vowed to “vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

Tacopina has accused prosecutors of "distorting laws" to try to take down the former president. He has described Trump as a victim of extortion who had to pay the money because the allegations were going to be embarrassing to him “regardless of the campaign.”

In a lengthy statement of his own issued the day of the grand jury vote, Trump echoed the claims his attorneys made earlier Thursday, calling the case "Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history."

He also once again called the investigation a "Witch-hunt," and went on to go after Bragg, whom he called "a disgrace...doing Joe Biden’s dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on."

President Joe Biden, who has yet to formally announce that he’s seeking reelection next year, and other leading Democrats have largely had little to say about it.

Asked about the matter Tuesday, a White House spokesperson said the president was focused on the American people, not matters related to Trump.

The former president made the claims on his Truth Social platform. So far, the Manhattan DA's office has declined to comment on the posts. News 4's Adam Harding reports.

Trump's Legal Woes: Beyond the Manhattan Indictment

The indictment marks an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.

Even as Trump pursues his latest White House campaign, there is no question an indictment gives fodder to his longstanding critics.

Besides the hush money inquiry in New York, Trump faces criminal investigations in Atlanta and Washington over his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 election.

A Justice Department special counsel has also been presenting evidence before a grand jury investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate.

It is not clear when those investigations will end or whether they might result in criminal charges, but they will continue regardless of what happens in New York, underscoring the ongoing gravity – and broad geographic scope – of the legal challenges facing the former president.

On Tuesday from Mar-a-Lago, Trump took time to address some of the other potential legal problems he may face — which may put him in more legal jeopardy than the Manhattan charges.

He called on Atlanta prosecutors to "drop" a case into his effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, condemned an ongoing federal investigation into his handling of classified documents, mocked a New York state investigation into his business and described special counsel Jack Smith — who is overseeing the federal probe into his handling of classified documents and his actions around the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — as a "lunatic."

Trump said that New York Attorney General Letitia James has "put our family through hell."

"With all of this being said, and with a very dark cloud over our beloved country, I have no doubt nevertheless we will make America great again," Trump said.

Eric Tucker, Michael R. Sisak, Jill Colvin and Michelle L. Price of the Associated Press, as well as NBC News' Jonathan Allen and Allan Smith, contributed to this report

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