Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Counts in Manhattan Criminal Court [UPDATED]

Former President Donald Trump was accompanied by his legal team, Joe Tacopina, Susan Nechecles and Todd Blanche, as he surrendered in the Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon.
Former President Donald Trump was accompanied by his legal team, Joe Tacopina, Susan Nechecles and Todd Blanche, as he surrendered in the Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon. Screenshot
Editor's Note:  This story has been updated to include Donald Trump's Tuesday night address from Florida.

For many people who have witnessed the ways that former President Donald Trump has been caught in the political and legal crosshairs before, Tuesday's arraignment was a much-awaited moment, said University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

“When it's Donald Trump, people are expecting this to happen. For his bombastic approach to politics, some even like it,” Rottinghaus said.

Trump arrived at the Manhattan Criminal Court for his hearing, pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a coverup that New York prosecutors say was designed to conceal hush money payments made that Trump thought would damage his 2016 presidential campaign if word got out about them.

Following his appearance in court, the charges were made public as Trump’s indictment documents were released, which confirmed the charges involved his role in an alleged hush money scheme concerning $130,000 in payments to hide a supposed affair between him and former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The documents also included details and charges over another alleged payment to former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, also over an alleged extramarital affair. Additional alleged payments to a Trump Tower doorman over claims he made that the former president had a child out of wedlock, are also cited in the documents.

Trump's singular standing – being the first former President charged with a federal crime – was reflected in the preparations and proceedings Tuesday afternoon, Rottinghaus said.

“There were certainly some protections afforded and specific measures taken, given who they were dealing with,” Rottinghaus said. “The bigger the spectacle this whole situation turns into, the harder it is to get a fair trial; that’s consistent across the board, so the District Attorney wants to be able to minimize the show around it as much as possible.”

Although there was much public speculation, no mugshot was taken of Trump and he was never placed in handcuffs; however, he was otherwise processed like any other criminal in the court and fingerprinted prior to heading into his hearing.

Since the announcement of the indictment, Trump has had significant donations to his Presidential campaign fund and has had a number of Republican elites, along with his faithful followers,  flock to his support – denying the charges against him, Rottinghaus said.

According to Rottinghaus, scandals like these criminal charges, do not affect politicians the same way as they used to 20 years ago – especially not politicians like Trump.

“There’s this kind of insular environment where most people only believe the things they’re told and, in some cases, what they do believe is impacted by the polarization that is happening right now,” Rottinghaus said. “This really narrows down what people are going to hold politicians accountable for and what they really want to hear about those politicians.”

This is a concern of Rottinghaus’s as one of the next steps is to determine whom the jurors on this case’s trail will be. “It will be a very significant challenge to find a nonpartisan juror in this case, because Donald Trump is so polarizing, people either love him or hate him.”

Rottinghaus said as much as District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Trump’s legal defense — Attorney Joe Tacopina, Susan Nechecles and Todd Blanche – want to try keep politics out of this trail, it will be very difficult to do so.

“It’s inevitable that there will be political ramifications, but the goal is to minimize this during the trail, as much as possible,” said Rottinghaus.

Update: 8:55 p.m.

Fresh off a plane from New York back to Palm Beach, former President Donald Trump Tuesday night called for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to resign and referred to the indictment as a “fake case” brought against him to interfere with the 2024 election.

Trump addressed crowds of his supporters, accompanied by his family and campaign staff, giving his first public response about the indictment and his arraignment hearing.

He asked for the case to be dropped immediately, also claiming that the other two pending investigations were invalid and that there was no way he could be prosecuted under these additional allegations.

These investigations involve Trump allegedly tampering with the election results in Fulton County, Georgia and the discovery of classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago house — where tonight’s speech was held.

“We’re there (New York) with a local failed District Attorney charging a former President of the United States for the first time in history on a basis that every single pundit and legal analyst said there is no case,” Trump said. “They kept saying there is no case, virtually everyone – but far worse than that – he (Bragg) knew there was no case. That is why last week he delayed it for a month and then he immediately took it back and threw this ridiculous indictment together.”

Trump referred to Bragg as “the real criminal” in the case and said that he should be prosecuted for leaking massive amounts of grand jury information throughout the indictment process.

The former president also brought his lawyers into the conversation, claiming that they told him the indictment had no substance and did not indicate what Trump did to break the law.

Trump also claimed that Bragg’s team wanted to settle the case, but that “he wanted no part of that.”

Trump also took jabs at Bragg’s daughter and wife, then claimed that the District Attorney’s website featured a page that would allow users to “meet the team that did this to Trump,” but that this page was later taken down.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.