Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records

    Former President Donald Trump appears in court with members of his legal team on April 4 in New York City. (Photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters/Pool)

    (CNN) — Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony criminal charges of falsifying business records in Manhattan criminal court Tuesday afternoon.

    The indictment against Trump alleges that the former president sought to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election.

    Prosecutors alleged Trump was part of an unlawful plan to suppress negative information, including an illegal payment of $130,000 that was ordered by the defendant to suppress the negative information that would hurt his campaign.

    The reason Trump committed the crime of falsifying business records was in part to “promote his candidacy,” the indictment alleges.

    The former president’s voice was measured in the courtroom. He walked in slowly scanning the reporters in the courtroom and looked at the judge when he was speaking.

    Trump had arrived at the Manhattan district attorney’s office earlier Tuesday afternoon, where he was placed under arrest and in police custody before the arraignment.

    The arraignment in the Manhattan courtroom Tuesday represented a surreal and historic moment in US history.

    A judge said Monday night that news outlets were not allowed to broadcast the proceedings, rejecting a request from several media organizations, including CNN. Five still photographers, however, will be allowed to take pictures of Trump and the courtroom before the hearing begins.

    The indictment returned last week by a grand jury against Trump will provide the public — and Trump’s legal team — with the first details about the specific charges he will face. The investigation stemmed from a hush money payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    It remains to be seen whether Trump will speak in New York. Chris Kise, one of Trump’s lawyers, said he expects the former president to speak to the cameras in the hallway outside of the courtroom before and after his arraignment, and multiple people familiar with Trump’s thinking tell CNN that he has weighed saying something while still in Manhattan. Advisers have warned him, however, that any unplanned remarks put him at high risk of hurting his case.

    Trump is slated to fly back to Florida following his court appearance and will hold an event at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday evening that gives the 2024 Republican presidential hopeful a chance to respond to the charges.

    While Trump’s comments will signal how he intends to fight the charges against him in the political arena, the former president is also preparing for the fight in court: He added a new attorney, Todd Blanche, to serve as lead counsel on his defense team on Monday.

    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment marks the first criminal charges against Trump, but it’s not the only potential legal trouble in front of the former president: Special counsel Jack Smith is still moving forward with an investigation into Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. And a Fulton County special grand jury has completed its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

    Trump arrived in New York on Monday afternoon, flying up on his jet from Palm Beach. He stayed overnight in Trump Tower, 4 miles north to the courthouse in downtown Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon.

    Law enforcement in New York and the US Secret Service have been planning for the prospect of Trump’s appearance at the courthouse for weeks.

    This story has been updated with additional details.

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