(Update 2: Adds Trump’s speech, changes head, dateline and lede, edits throughout)
Miami/New York City, Apr 4 (EFE).- Former United States president Donald Trump on Tuesday spoke for the first time after pleading not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records, claiming the case against him is “fake” and launching wide-ranging attacks on everyone from the judge and the justice system to “radical left lunatics.”
Trump arrived back in Florida after being fingerprinted at his New York arraignment in which he was charged over an alleged hush-money scheme prosecutors said he carried out to boost his 2016 electoral chances. He is now the first former US president ever to face criminal charges.
At his Mar-a-Lago mansion the former leader introduced himself to a crowd of supporters, portraying himself as unjustly persecuted by authorities and Democrats.
“God bless you all. I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” he told the crowd, which included his children Eric, Tiffany and Don Jr, but not his wife Melania or daughter Ivanka.
“The only crime I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”
For 25 minutes he listed off a range of grievances, attacking those involved in multiple investigations and cases against him, and repeated the misleading information and falsehoods that he is known for, but said little about Tuesday’s indictment.
“This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election. And it should be dropped immediately,” he said.
“We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.”
He was met with cheers on several occasions, especially when he attacked President Joe Biden and his son, as well as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who he described as “the criminal” and said was the one who “threw this ridiculous indictment together.”
He also described the case’s justice Juan Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family” and lambasted New York Attorney General Letitia James, and even had a go at inflation under Biden.
“Our country is going to hell,” he proclaimed.
Earlier in New York, Trump appeared before Judge Merchan shortly after turning himself in to judicial authorities, and the magistrate read the 34 counts against him for allegedly falsifying business records to hide hush money payments.
The ex-president entered the courtroom about 2.30 pm not wearing handcuffs but showing by facial expression and body language his disgust at the proceedings.
The statement of facts prepared by prosecutors said that Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
“From August 2015 to December 2017, the Defendant orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant’s electoral prospects,” it added.
Trump stands accused of paying $130,000 to former adult film star Stormy Daniels so that she would not go public about an alleged affair the pair had, as well as $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal who said she also had an affair with him, and $30,000 to a former doorman who had claimed to know that Trump had a child out of wedlock.
Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the payment to Daniels, while McDougal and the doorman were reportedly paid by AMI, the publishers of the National Enquirer.
DA Bragg said Trump and others used a “catch and kill” scheme to identify, purchase and then bury negative information about him to boost his electoral prospects, and that the ex-president then concealed these activities and payments through months of false business entries.
Meanwhile, the huge numbers of supporters that Trumpworld had promised would turn out on Tuesday to back the former president in the vicinity of the Manhattan courthouse ultimately failed to materialize, with only about 100 of his followers coming to the site and because a group of anti-Trump demonstrators staged a pot-banging din to drown out anything the pro-Trump forces were saying.