Trump pleads not guilty to 34 charges linked to hush money case

(Updates with Trump’s court appearance, indictment, crowd activities outside)

New York, Apr 4 (EFE).- Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 34 counts linked to irregular payments of so-called hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign so that she would not go public about an alleged sexual affair the pair had had 10 years before.

Trump, who has now become the first US president ever to face criminal charges, appeared before Manhattan Judge Manuel Merchan shortly after turning himself in to judicial authorities, and the magistrate then read the 34 counts against him for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the hush money payments.

The ex-president entered the courtroom about 2:30 pm without wearing handcuffs but showing by facial expression and body language his disgust at the proceedings.

Dressed in a light blue suit and red tie, Trump was accompanied by his team of attorneys, with Joe Tacopina in the lead, and followed by two police officers. Immediately after entering the chamber, he heard the judge read the charges against him from case file 71543-23, according to The New York Times, which added that the ex-president and his attorneys did not respond to questions from a reporter present in the courtroom.

It is expected that, after filing his not guilty plea, Trump will fly back to his Mar-a-Lago resort and estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where this evening he has promised to make a public statement.

Shortly before arriving in court, apparently while he was in his vehicle being driven there, Trump took time to write a post on his Truth Social social network, calling his situation “surreal” and saying: “WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

The statement of facts prepared by prosecutors to accompany the indictment against the ex-president says 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.”

Trump stands accused of paying $130,000 to Daniels, along with $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal and $50,000 to a former Trump Tower 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 paid by AMI, the publishers of the National Enquirer.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is heading the case against Trump, said in his announcement of the indictment on Tuesday that Trump and others used a “catch and kill” plan to identify, purchase and then bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects.

Bragg said 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.

Despite a few raised voices between the two groups at times, there was not even the merest hint of violence on either side, in contrast to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol that Trump stirred up in a fiery speech to an enraged mob of followers to try and reverse his loss in the presidential vote the previous November.

Collect Pond Park plaza, next to the courthouse, was divided by a police metal double-barricade, thus keeping pro- and anti-Trump groups apart amid a huge domestic and international press presence.

About 100 pro-Trump people showed up at the site wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps and waving assorted flags.

Meanwhile, the anti-Trump group numbering several dozen, deployed a huge banner on the ground at the site saying “Trump lies all the time.”

US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, from Georgia and one of the main organizers of the pro-Trump protest, arrived on the scene with the aim of giving a speech to the Republican ex-president’s followers but, despite the fact that she was using a bullhorn, her 10-minute remarks could barely be heard since the anti-Trump crowd began banging on their pots and pans and whistling loudly to drown her out.

“I’ll have to watch the speech on YouTube,” one Republican demonstrator who had come to show his support for Trump and Greene told EFE.

During her comments, however, Green – much noted for her conspiracy-theory oriented remarks in the past – lambasted Democrats, calling them “communists” and calling for “peace,” adding that the GOP is the party of “secure borders” and the one that will bring peace to the world, like Trump did as president, she claimed.

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