- For the first time in history, a former US president has appeared in court as a criminal defendant.
- Arraignment provides new detail on charges facing Trump as Manhattan prosecutors released the indictment.
- Upon his return to his Florida estate, Trump attacked the judge's family; he also called the New York district attorney an "animal".
- Trump rallied his supporters, saying: "The only crime that I've commited is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it."
Latest updates: Donald Trump arraigned on 34 felony counts
Donald Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday after being indicted by a New York grand jury on charges related to hush-money payments at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Trump, a 2024 presidential candidate, pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges in a Manhattan courtroom.
• It includes 34 counts of fudging records related to checks Trump sent to his personal lawyer and problem-solver to reimburse him for his role in paying off a porn actor who said she had an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.
• “The defendant, Donald J. Trump, falsified New York business records in order to conceal an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws," said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy.
• Trump, somber and silent as he entered and exited the Manhattan courtroom, said “not guilty” in a firm voice while facing a judge who warned him to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest.
• All told, the ever-verbose Trump, who for weeks before Tuesday’s arraignment had assailed the case against him as political persecution, uttered only 10 words — though he did appear to glare for a period at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor who brought the case.
• He returned to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, where he delivered a primetime address to hundreds of supporters.
• Trump again protested his innocence and asserted on his Truth Social platform that the “hearing was shocking to many in that they had no ‘surprises,’ and therefore, no case.”
• At Mar-a-Lago, Trump told his supporters: "The only crime that I've committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it."
• The arraignment in a Manhattan courtroom was a stunning — and humbling — spectacle for the former president, putting him face-to-face with prosecutors who bluntly accused him of criminal conduct and setting the stage for a possible criminal trial in the city where he decades ago became a celebrity.
What to know about Trump’s day in court:
Hush-money payments related to 2016 election:
Prosecutors unsealed the indictment against the former president Tuesday, giving Trump, his lawyers and the world their first opportunity to see them.
Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Prosecutors said Trump conspired to undermine the 2016 presidential election by trying to suppress information that could harm his candidacy, and then concealing the true nature of the hush-money payments.
The payments were made to two women — including a porn actor — who claimed they had sexual encounters with him years earlier, and to a doorman at Trump Tower who claimed to have a story about a child Trump fathered out of wedlock, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.
Hours earlier the 76-year-old former US president pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in a New York hearing that transfixed the nation — and began the countdown to the first ever criminal trial of an American president.
"I never thought anything like this could happen in America — never thought it could happen," Trump told an audience of several hundred donors, political allies and other supporters after returning to Mar-a-Lago, his beachfront mansion in southern Florida.
"The only crime that I've committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it... It's an insult to our country."
Trump — the frontrunner in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination — said from a stage festooned with American flags in an opulent gold-and-cream ballroom that "radical left" prosecutors across the country were out to get him "at any cost."
Trump wrapped up his speech at 8:50 pm after roughly 20 minutes. He stepped into the crowd to mingle with supporters in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom.
Donald J. Trump, defendant
Trump was only seen briefly outside the district attorney’s office, where he surrendered to authorities and was booked and fingerprinted behind closed doors. Trump’s mugshot was not taken, according to two law enforcement officials who could not publicly discuss details of the process and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
As the former president entered the courtroom, he briefly looked at a huddle of news cameras but did not stop to speak to reporters. Inside the courtroom, Trump sat at the defense table with his hands in his lap and his lawyers at his side. During the rest of the proceeding, he stayed still with his hands together and looked straight ahead.
Trump only spoke briefly in court, telling the judge he was pleading “not guilty” and had been advised of his rights. The judge warned Trump that he could be removed from the courtroom if he was disruptive. Trump made no comment when he left court just under an hour later.
Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said during the hearing that Trump is “absolutely frustrated, upset and believes that there is a great injustice happening” in the courtroom.
Trump's response outside court
Before he appeared in court, Trump made posts on his social media network complaining that the heavily Democratic area was a “VERY UNFAIR VENUE” and “THIS IS NOT WHAT AMERICA WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!” As his motorcade carried him across Manhattan, he posted that the experience was “SURREAL.”
The Republican has portrayed the Manhattan case and three separate investigations from the Justice Department and prosecutors in Georgia, as politically motivated. In recent weeks, he has lashed out at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, called on his supports to protest and warned about “potential death and destruction” if he were charged.
Trump flew back to his home, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida on Tuesday night and spoke to his supporters.
Bragg speaks briefly
Bragg, speaking publicly for the first time since the indictment last week, held a brief news conference after the court proceedings in which he said the hush-money scheme constituted “felony crimes in New York state—no matter who you are.”
“We cannot and will not normalise serious criminal conduct,” Bragg said. The Democratic prosecutor said accurate and true business records are important everywhere, but especially in Manhattan, because it's the financial center of the world.
Bragg was asked at the news conference why he was bringing the case now and if the timing was political. The district attorney said his office had “additional evidence” that his predecessor did not. “I bring cases when they’re ready,” he said.
Warnings and potential consequences
The judge on Tuesday did not impose a gag order but warned Trump to avoid making comments that were inflammatory or could cause civil unrest. If convicted of any one of the 34 felony charges, Trump could face a maximum of four years in prison, but he'd likely be sentenced to less.
Trial while campaigning for presidency
Trump is due back in court in December, but his lawyers asked that he be excused from attending that hearing in person because of the extraordinary security required to have him show up.
Prosecutors asked the judge to set a trial for January — weeks before the first votes will be cast in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump's lawyers asked that it be pushed to the spring. The judge did not immediately set a date.
Mixed political impacts
Though he faces a swirl of legal challenges, Trump is running for president again and has sought to use the charges and other investigations to galvanize his supporters.
Most of the Republicans also running or eyeing campaigns have released statements supportive of Trump while slamming the investigations of him as politically motivated. Many Democratic elected officials have said little about the New York indictment, including President Joe Biden.
Trump’s legal troubles are only expected to bolster Democratic voters' opposition to him, but it’s unclear whether some Republicans and independent voters will see the legal problems as too much baggage.
New York circus
A crowd of Trump supporters, thronged by journalists, gathered Tuesday outside the Manhattan courthouse. Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and George Santos of New York, who is facing multiple investigations over lies he told while running for office, were swarmed by cameras and reporters when they arrived and spoke mid-morning.
A band of anti-Trump protesters appeared with a large banner saying, “Trump Lies All the Time.”
Trump's latest social media post
In a social media post from his plane on his flight home from New York, former President Donald Trump said that Tuesday's court hearing "was shocking to many in that they had no ‘surprises,’ and therefore, no case. Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!”
Trump's plane has landed in Florida, and his motorcade headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort where hundreds of supporters, many in red MAGA hats, awaited him in a grand ballroom. Trump was expected to speak there in a campaign-like setting.
One man wore a jacket patterned with star-shaped American flags, and another man wore a red tie with the message “No Crime!” Members of a motorcycle club sported black leather vests that read on the back “Born To Ride for 45 Donald Trump.” Trump was the 45th U.S. president.
Alex Gonzalez, a motorcycle club member, said he supports Trump in his 2024 presidential bid.
“If he did something wrong, like anybody else, he should be held liable for it, but at the same time this is a witch hunt. This is not a real case,” said Gonzalez.
Trump returned to Florida and delivered a 20-minute speech to supporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort late on Tuesday.
Taken together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison under New York law but an actual prison sentence if he is convicted at a trial would almost certainly be far less than that.
While falsifying business records in New York on its own is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison, it is elevated to a felony punishable by up to four years in prison when done to advance or conceal another crime.
■ What are the charges against Trump?
Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records under Article 175 of the New York Penal Law.
Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an "intent to defraud" that includes an intent to "commit another crime or to aid or conceal" another crime. In this case, prosecutors will have to prove that Trump is guilty of maintaining false business records with the intent to hide the $130,000 payment in the days before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged 2006 affair.
■ Does that mean Trump is charged with 34 different crimes?
No, the indictment lists 34 felony counts. Each count represents a separate instance of alleged misconduct, but not a different crime.
■ What are the likely punishments for those charges?
If convicted on the felony bookkeeping fraud charges, Trump faces a sentence of up to four years for each count.
The charge does not carry a mandatory prison sentence, however. Even if convicted on all counts, Trump would not necessarily face jail time. As a first-time offender with no criminal record, legal experts say, Trump is unlikely to be sentenced to prison.
■ Do we know how Trump will respond to the charges?
Trump pleaded not guilty during the arraignment hearing Tuesday afternoon. His lawyer Joe Tacopina said Sunday that the former president will eventually move to have the charges dismissed.
The Manhattan grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg that indicted Trump heard evidence about a $130,000 payment made to Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels has said she was paid to keep silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006.
Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has said he coordinated with Trump on payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and to a second woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied having had sexual relationships with either woman, but has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen.
Trump earlier held his fist in the air in a gesture to reporters as he departed his New York residence at Trump Tower in a motorcade bound for the courthouse. He exhibited little emotion when he waved to a crowd assembled outside the courthouse.
'Seems so Surreal'
From his motorcade, Trump posted on social media: "Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL - WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can't believe this is happening in America." Trump surrendered to Bragg's office before the arraignment began in Justice Juan Merchan's court. At an arraignment, a defendant hears charges and can enter a plea. Trump was fingerprinted but no mugshot photo was taken, according to a Twitter post by a New York Times reporter.
In other social media posts ahead of the arraignment, Trump renewed his attacks on Merchan, who last year presided over a trial in which Trump's real estate company was convicted of tax fraud.
Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, in November announced a bid to regain the presidency in 2024 in a bid to deny Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020, a second term in the White House.
A photo taken by a photographer in the courtroom authorized by the judge showed Trump sitting at the defense table, flanked by his lawyers. Trump's lawyers had urged the judge to block any videography, photography and radio coverage, arguing it would worsen "an already almost circus-like atmosphere." The businessman-turned-politician has been a familiar figure for decades in New York, the city where he was raised, built his real estate business and became a celebrity.
Supporters outnumbering detractors
On a cool and sunny early spring day in the most-populous US city, Trump supporters and detractors were separated by barricades set up by police to try to keep order, though there were some confrontations.
"Let's keep it civil, folks," a police officer told them.
Hundreds of Trump supporters, at a park across from the Manhattan courthouse, cheered and blew whistles, outnumbering his detractors. The Trump critics held signs including one of Trump dressed in a striped jail uniform behind bars and another that read, "Lock Him Up." The White House remained mum on the drama in New York.
"I think the American people should feel reassured that when there is an ongoing case like this one that we're just not commenting," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
Any trial is at least more than a year away, legal experts said. Being indicted or even convicted does not legally prevent Trump from running for president.