Data News Staff Edited Report
It’s a historic moment in American history on April 4, 2023.
Where for approximately two hours, for the first time in his life, Donald Trump was not a free man. The former President surrendered to authorities at Manhattan Criminal Court just before 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, beginning a surreal moment in U.S. history: a former president placed under arrest.
After being fingerprinted, but not photographed for a mug shot, Trump walked a few steps out from behind a blacked-out door, where photographers briefly captured him framed by his signature combination of navy suit, white shirt, and red tie. While inside the courtroom, he sat with his hands in his lap, flanked by his defense attorneys.
When asked by Judge Juan Merchan how he pleaded to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, Trump answered defiantly “Not guilty”.
This case centers around Trump’s alleged 2016 role in directing hush-money payments to adult Film Performer Stormy Daniels via Michael Cohen. Who at the time was Trump’s former attorney. Prosecutors allege that business records concerning Cohen’s reimbursement were falsified — everything from entries in the Trump Corporation’s ledger to check stubs. Subsequently, in court papers, prosecutors also referenced similar efforts by Trump’s associate and friend David Pecker, who ran the National Enquirer, to suppress damaging stories from Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal and a former Trump doorman in so-called “catch and kill” plots.
In the courtroom on this historic day, seated behind the prosecution was Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, taking notes in a spiral-bound notebook and flanked by security. Days earlier, Trump in his usual pugnacious fashion had shared an image of himself wielding a baseball bat against Bragg.
When asked by prosecutors to address Trump’s menacing social-media posts, Judge Merchan recommended that his defense attorneys advise their client to not speak publicly about the case. Merchan asked that prosecutors advise their witnesses the same, clearly referencing Daniels and the expected star witness, Cohen.
Merchan ordered Trump to be released on his own recognizance, and the former president was whisked away by members of the Secret Service, who were by his side during the entire ordeal. They sped down the highway in a group of black vehicles to La Guardia Airport, where Trump had arrived in dramatic fashion a day earlier on his private jet from Mar-a-Lago.
Former President Trump continues denying having an affair with Daniels and has used the indictment to fundraise some $7 million for his 2024 presidential campaign ever since he erroneously predicted that his own “arrest” would take place weeks ago. Additionally, Republican officials and voters have rallied to his side, believing he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by the Democratic District Attorney.
Even before the indictment was unsealed, Trump’s lawyers, led by Joe Tacopina, vowed to defeat the case before it is brought to trial, saying they believe Bragg’s theory of the case is not supported by law. Judge Merchan, who presided over the state’s successful fraud prosecution of the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, is overseeing this case as well.
The arraignment was the hottest event in town — with Trump’s trip from his Mar-a-Lago residence tracked like he was O. J. Simpson. In Manhattan, media began lining up for access to the courthouse 24 hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin, and helicopters could be heard hovering above lower Manhattan early Tuesday morning.
Trump, who continues to be a divisive figure in American politics is again grabbing headlines with his arrest and arraignment. It will be interesting to see the road this case takes in regard to Trump, who is in criminal jeopardy, as well as running for the nation’s highest office.