Bof the late American president Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a New York court on Tuesday to charges he made payments to alleged mistresses before the 2016 presidential election. The court also announced a 34-count indictment for falsifying business records, a felony. Judge Juan Mercan scheduled another hearing for December and admonished Trump for his comments to the trial participants.
Trump became the first former US president to be indicted in a criminal case when a Manhattan grand jury found the prosecution had enough evidence to proceed. The charge stems from the case “pay for silence” two women who claim to have had extramarital affairs with Trump in the past. Porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal got a close call from Trump allies presidential elections a total of $280,000 (approximately six million CZK).
Prosecutors announced that the charges relate to the third such case involving a former doorman at Trump Tower. At the same time, Trump is facing suspicions that he financed the payments himself, after which he disguised the transactions as “legal expenses”. His former lawyer Michael Cohen, who is one of the main actors in the case, was convicted in connection with it several years ago. Trump denies wrongdoing and calls his prosecution a “witch hunt.”
On Tuesday, he spent about two hours in the courtroom. He first turned himself in to New York authorities and went through the arrest process, including fingerprinting. Then he appeared before judge Juan Mercan, whom he attacked as biased in recent days. During his visit to the court, the former president did not speak to the media, and only a few photos were taken during the short court session.
Falsifying business records is usually classified as a misdemeanor, according to US media, but can become a felony if proven to have been used to cover up another crime. Prosecutors link the charges to violations of New York election rules and federal campaign finance rules. Numerous commentators in recent days have stated that he will certainly not have an easy task ahead of him and that the case has a number of weaknesses.
The BBC news agency noted that the charges, described in American terminology as “criminal offenses,” facing the former head of state carry prison terms of a year or more. For Trump, if he is convicted, it would probably be a mitigating circumstance that he has never been punished before.
Since the accused denied guilt even in court, the proceedings will now move to a stage where the defense will be able to get acquainted in detail not only with the accusations, but also with the evidence. Trump’s team is then expected to delay the process in various ways, including seeking to have the impeachment dismissed without a trial. This would probably follow in a few months.
Judge Mercan scheduled the next hearing for December 4 and hinted that the main trial could begin in January. At this stage, he has not issued an order limiting public statements by those involved in the trial, but warned Trump against making statements that could increase the risk of unrest. As reported by the AP agency, he also told the accused that he could be kicked out of the courtroom if his behavior interfered with the process.
Prosecutors complained to the judge about the possible impact of the defendant’s “threatening” comments, NBC News reports. Recently, the former president has repeatedly attacked Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg, and more recently, Merchan himself. His allies, including his two grown sons, recently began circulating a photo of Merchan’s daughter on social media in an attempt to cast doubt on the judge’s credibility.
I didn’t expect that, says Trump
I never thought something like this could happen in America, former US President Donald Trump said in his first speech after becoming the only former president in US history to be impeached on Tuesday. According to him, the United States is on the way to hell and the whole world is laughing at them. He claims he did nothing wrong. His only crime, he says, is that he fearlessly defended the US against people trying to destroy it.
He also again attacked New York Attorney General Alvin Bragg, who is handling his case. He accused him of “massive election meddling” and of wanting to “get him at all costs” before knowing anything about him or the case, prompting boos from hundreds of Trump supporters at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
The billionaire had no inhibitions in his comments regarding judge Juan Mercan, although he criticized him on Tuesday for his expressive words addressed to the trial participants. “I have a judge who hates Trump and he has a wife who hates Trump,” he said in a speech that lasted less than 30 minutes, which, as American journalists note, is extremely short by his standards.
At the start of the speech, supporters, including several family members, greeted the 45th US president with thunderous applause and chants of USA, USA. Trump addressed them in front of a couple of American flags and styled himself as if he was at one of the pre-election rallies. He has also traditionally repeated a series of false claims, such as millions of invalid votes in the 2020 election in which he lost to Joe Biden.
For this reason, for example, NBC News cut off the broadcast after a few minutes of pointing out Trump’s “lies.” At the same time, she stated that, if she returns to the indictment in her speech, she will continue broadcasting. Some other American television stations did not broadcast the former president’s performance at all.
“People who turned on their televisions expecting Trump to talk about impeachment may be surprised to find that he has spent very little time on the New York case. Instead, he spouts his usual complaints about the other cases he faces,” summarized one New York Times reporter.