Donald Trump stated in a defiant address that the United States is “going to hell” after pleading not guilty to falsifying business records to conceal detrimental information before the 2016 presidential election.
Tuesday in a Manhattan court in New York, the former president was charged with 34 counts.
These papers relate to an alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and a covert payment.
After appearing in court, the 76-year-old told supporters assembled at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “The only crime I have committed is fearlessly defending our nation against those who seek to destroy it.”
Contributing money to a presidential campaign without revealing it violates federal campaign finance law. But such a payment is not illegal.
Earlier, he sat stone-faced and silent during the nearly hour-long proceedings before Judge Juan Merchan, speaking only in response to the judge’s questions and to submit his not-guilty plea. Mr. Trump did not speak to the media as he left court.
The case against the former president hinges on a $130,000 (£104,000) hush-money payment made before the 2016 presidential election.
While such a payment is not unlawful. It is a violation of federal campaign finance law to contribute money to a presidential campaign without disclosing it.
Michael Cohen, his former counsel who turned against him, said Mr Trump ordered the payment.
The case has plunged the nation into uncharted political terrain, but his guilt is unknown.
Judge Merchan stated that Mr. Trump’s trial could begin as early as January 2024, indicating the Republican could be back in court just as the primaries to select the party’s presidential nominee to commence.
While the charges pertain to the payment made to Stormy Daniels, prosecutors have also disclosed background documents that, according to them, demonstrate a pattern of attempting to suppress potentially politically damaging stories.
The National Enquirer, a Trump ally, allegedly made two more payments.
They claim a Trump Tower doorman was paid $30,000 to keep quiet about Mr. Trump’s lovechild.
Both payments, according to the prosecution, were made by the National Enquirer.
While a criminal conviction would not prevent Mr. Trump from running for president or reclaiming the White House, the prolonged legal battle could prove to be a significant distraction for the Republican front-runner and could add a new layer of chaos to his party’s primary.
Mr. Trump is the subject of three other investigations, related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the attack on the Capitol while it was certifying Joe Biden’s victory, and the former president’s management of classified documents after leaving office.