Former President Donald Trump made history on Tuesday as he became the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges when he appeared before a Manhattan court. Trump was indicted by a grand jury on more than 30 counts of business fraud, including at least one felony, related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump surrendered to authorities at the Manhattan courthouse late Tuesday morning, where he was fingerprinted and possibly had his mug shot taken. He was not handcuffed or subjected to a “perp walk” in front of the media. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was released on his own recognizance.
The indictment, which was unsealed during the arraignment, accused Trump of orchestrating a scheme to conceal payments of $130,000 to Daniels and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claimed to have had affairs with him. The payments were allegedly made by Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 and cooperated with prosecutors.
The indictment also alleged that Trump and his company falsified business records, tax returns and financial statements to conceal the payments and avoid paying taxes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a political witch hunt. He has also claimed that the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, hates him, although his own lawyer has disputed that.
Trump’s supporters have rallied behind him, accusing Bragg of abusing his power and trying to sabotage Trump’s potential run for president in 2024. Trump has used the indictment as a fundraising tool, raising more than $8 million in the days following the announcement of the charges.
Trump left New York on Tuesday evening and returned to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he gave a defiant speech to his supporters. He vowed to fight the charges and said he was confident that he would be exonerated.
The case is expected to go to trial next year, unless Trump reaches a plea deal with prosecutors or the charges are dismissed by the judge. The outcome of the case could have significant implications for Trump’s political future and legacy.