Trump faces criminal charges in court after historic indictment.
Donald Trump indicted on 34 counts of fraud
Former US President Donald Trump has been indicted on 34 counts of fraud by a grand jury in New York. The charges relate to Trump’s business dealings in the state, and include allegations of tax evasion, insurance fraud, and bank fraud.
Trump is the first former US president to be indicted. He has denied all of the charges, calling them “a political witch hunt”.
He pleaded ‘not guilty’ to 34 counts against him before Judge Juan Merchan shortly after 2.40pm, becoming the first current or former US president ever to be charged with a crime.
The indictment is the culmination of a years-long investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The investigation was launched in 2018, following a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The indictment alleges that Trump and his associates engaged in a “scheme to defraud” banks, insurance companies, and other businesses by misrepresenting the value of his assets. The charges also include allegations of tax evasion and other financial crimes.
Prosecutors asked for a trial date in January 2024.
Donald Trump’s legal team called that timeline “too aggressive” and suggested spring 2024 as an alternative.
Judge Juan Merchan did not weigh in.
Trump’s next in-person court appearance is set for Dec. 4. The defence counsel asked the judge to waive Trump’s appearance.
The judge acknowledged that Tuesday’s hearing was a “huge undertaking,” but said he would not immediately excuse Trump’s appearance, and said he would deny for the time being the defence counsel’s request “in the interest of transparency.”
If he were to be convicted on felony charges, Trump could face a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
However, legal experts have said a fine is the most likely outcome and have said time spent in prison is highly unlikely.
To secure a conviction on the felony charge, prosecutors would have to prove that records were falsified with the intention of committing or concealing a second crime.
It’s not clear what prosecutors may allege as the second crime.
What is Trump accused of?
Ms Daniels says she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006, which he has always denied.
In 2016 she tried to sell her account of what happened to the media. Mr Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet. That kind of payment is called hush money.
That is not illegal but what has got Mr Trump into trouble is how Mr Cohen’s reimbursement was recorded in his accounts. He is accused of falsifying his business records by saying the payment was for legal fees.
As it happened just before Americans were due to vote, it may also violate laws about payments that help an election campaign.
There will now be a trial where Mr Trump will make his case, but we don’t know when that will be.
He has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated.
Former President Donald Trump hid reimbursement payments to Michael Cohen by marking monthly checks for “legal services,” according to the statement of facts, in a deal the two worked out in the Oval Office.
“In early February 2017, the Defendant and Lawyer A met in the Oval Office at the White House and confirmed this repayment arrangement,” the statement of facts said referring to Cohen.
Trump personally signed checks reimbursing Cohen, his attorney at the time, for the hush-money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, the statement of facts said.
The payment included $130,000 for Daniels in exchange for her signature on a non-disclosure agreement.
He also allegedly agreed to pay Cohen $35,000 monthly for one year, prosecutors allege.
The document also detailed how two of the payments were made from a trust set up in Trump’s name, but nine subsequent ones, “corresponding to the months of April through December of 2017, were paid by the Defendant personally.”
The ex-president has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Below is the full text
Is Trump going to jail if found guilty?
The most likely outcome at the end of this legal process is a fine but there is also a chance he could be sent to prison.
If any of the charges are serious – what in the US is called a felony – then Mr Trump would face a maximum of four years in prison.
But legal experts tell the BBC that time behind bars is unlikely.
The indictment is a major development in the long-running investigation into Trump’s business dealings. It is the first time that Trump has been charged with a crime. The charges could have serious implications for Trump’s political future.
The charges against Trump are the latest in a series of legal troubles for the former president. Trump is also facing a civil lawsuit from the New York State Attorney General’s office, which alleges that he used his charity organisation for personal and political gain.
The charges against Trump are seen by the mainstream media as a major setback for the former president. Claiming they are likely to further erode his support among Republican voters and could make it difficult for him to mount a comeback in 2024, however, many of his supporters are following the witch hunt line. Trump is likely to use this to his advantage working the anti-establishment angle for support.