Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty To 34 Felony Counts In Hush Money Case

Mr Trump is the first former US president to be criminally charged

[BBC] Donald Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former US president to face a criminal trial.

Appearing in a Manhattan court, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty after his formal arrest earlier on Tuesday.

As predicted, the charges stem from an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump, 76, has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The BBC is currently reading through the charging sheet and will publish real-time analysis to our live page.

A stony-faced Mr Trump said nothing as he left the courtroom after his arraignment. He is expected to return immediately to his Florida home Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening, where he plans to deliver remarks at 20:15 local time (01:15 BST).

The case hinges on an alleged $130,000 (£105,000) payment made by his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

The payment, which Mr Cohen said he made at the direction of then-candidate Mr Trump, was allegedly meant to keep Ms Daniels quiet about an affair between her and Mr Trump. Mr Trump has denied having any sexual encounters with Ms Daniels.

Hush money agreements are not illegal, but Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating whether business records were falsified in relation to the payment.

The odds of a conviction are so far unclear but the charges against Mr Trump – who has already launched his third bid for the White House – have pulled the country into unchartered political territory.

While a criminal conviction would not prevent Mr Trump from either running for president or from re-claiming the Oval Office, the prolonged legal fight may be a major distraction for the Republican front-runner, and will add a new layer of turmoil to his party’s primary.

“Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME,” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on the way to court. “Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

Hundreds of Mr Trump’s supporters congregated at a park across from the courthouse on Tuesday morning, galvanised by the charges filed against him. They were joined by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a right-wing Republican from Georgia who derided the Democratic party as “communists” and “failures”.

“Every single American should be concerned,” Ms Greene said of Mr Trump’s indictment. Ms Greene, 48, has repeatedly promoted the false claim that Mr Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Her appearance was met by outrage from counter-protesters who shouted and jeered, at times drowning her speech out entirely.

“Go back to Georgia!” one woman shouted.

The former president is the focus of three other investigations, related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and over his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House.

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