On April 4, former U.S. president Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to 34 felony charges largely stemming from an alleged hush-money payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.
Trump, 76, insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Trump’s indictment marks the first time in American history that a former president has been charged with a crime.
Trump, America’s 45th commander in chief and the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, sat composed and silent in the courtroom on Tuesday, after surrendering to authorities on Tuesday afternoon.
He described the moment as “surreal,” after his 11-vehicle motorcade made its way from his penthouse on Fifth Ave to the district attorney’s office downtown, The Guardian reported.
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Trump was then escorted by a large group of U.S. secret service agents while waving to a number of supporters, media members and others who gathered to witness the moment.
While Trump was fingerprinted, he was neither handcuffed nor subjected to a mugshot.
According to the charging document, prosecutors have accused Trump of paying $130,000 to secure the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels, who said she had a sexual encounter with the former president back in 2006.
The payment in question was made by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who has said that he was acting at the direction of Trump and New York prosecutors allege that the payment violated state records law because the payment was illegally recorded as a “legal expense,” which allowed Trump to avoid paying taxes on the money.
The circumstances are unprecedented in American history; a twice impeached former president, criminally charged, who is also running for reelection in the next presidential election.
However, Trump and his campaign see opportunity in his legal woes with many believing that Trump’s indictment may very well secure him a second term in the White House.
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Following Trump’s court appearance, Chuck Schumer, a United States Senator from New York, tweeted, “I believe that Donald Trump will have a fair trial that follows the facts and the law. There’s no place in our justice system for any outside influence or intimidation in the legal process,” adding that, “As the trial proceeds, protest is an American right, but all protests must be peaceful.”
His comment attracted the attention of Elon Musk who responded, “To avoid losing the trust of the American people, it is important that our justice system pursue Democrats and Republicans with equal vigor,” adding that, “Whichever party most puts justice before nepotism is the one that deserves trust.”
Current president, Joe Biden, who has yet to say whether or not he will be seeking a second term, has declined to comment on the matter with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters on Tuesday, “This is not his focus today.”