Former U.S. President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday. Trump is accused of covering up a potential sex scandal during the 2016 election by orchestrating a hush-money scheme to pave his path to the presidency and then covering it up from the White House. This case has far-reaching political consequences and opens a perilous chapter in the long public life of the real estate mogul and former president, who now faces the embarrassing prospect of a criminal trial.
THE HEARING AND THE INDICTMENT
Trump, who was indicted on 34 felony counts and stands accused of covering up a potential sex scandal involving a porn star, made an extraordinary appearance at the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan to face the charges. During the hearing, Mr. Trump sat almost docile at the defense table, listening as prosecutors described the case against him. The hearing was momentous for the prosecutor who brought the case, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg.
After the hearing, Trump returned to Florida and lashed out at Mr. Bragg, the judge, and their families during a meandering rally-style speech before supporters at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. He vented grievances about the other investigations still swirling around him, including the Manhattan case. Trump repeatedly assailed Mr. Bragg, who is Black, with racist language and made threatening statements reminiscent of his posts in the run-up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
THE CASE AND ITS RAMIFICATIONS
The case, brought in Trump’s hometown, is the beginning of the former president’s journey through the criminal justice system. He faces three other criminal investigations, in Georgia and Washington, related to accusations of undermining an election and mishandling sensitive government records, issues at the core of American democracy and security.
With the charges now unsealed, the public can delve deeper into the details of a tawdry tale of sex, lies, and intrigue that seems to have sprung from a gossip column and ended up in a felony indictment. The central players in the case are a stranger-than-fiction trio: the porn star, the hangdog fixer who paid her off, and the former president who stands accused of trying to cover the whole thing up.
The hearing inaugurated a new era of Mr. Bragg’s tenure, and he will occupy the national stage for months to come, even as the case opens him up to criticism from Mr. Trump’s supporters, who charge that he has blindly pursued the former president. For Mr. Bragg, securing a conviction is no sure thing, and he accused Mr. Trump of falsifying business records related to the hush money, felony charges that appear to hinge on a novel application of the law. The case has far-reaching political consequences and opens a perilous chapter in the long public life of the former president, who now faces the embarrassing prospect of a criminal trial.
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