(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump was formally charged in New York City Tuesday with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to 2016 hush money payments, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign to keep her quiet about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump, which Trump has long denied.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office say that Trump illegally falsified business records when his reimbursement of the funds to Cohen was logged in the Trump Organization’s books as a “monthly retainer” for Cohen’s legal services.
The former president, who has denied all wrongdoing, entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said that Trump was accused of “falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”
“During the election, TRUMP and others employed a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects. TRUMP then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws,” the statement said. “TRUMP is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with 34 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.”
“According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, from August 2015 to December 2017, TRUMP orchestrated his ‘catch and kill’ scheme through a series of payments that he then concealed through months of false business entries,” the statement said. “In one instance, American Media Inc. (‘AMI’), paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to have a story about a child TRUMP had out of wedlock.”
“In a second instance, AMI paid $150,000 to a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with TRUMP. When TRUMP explicitly directed a lawyer who then worked for the Trump Organization as TRUMP’s Special Counsel to reimburse AMI in cash, the Special Counsel indicated to TRUMP that the payment should be made via a shell company and not by cash. AMI ultimately declined to accept reimbursement after consulting their counsel. AMI, which later admitted its conduct was unlawful in an agreement with federal prosecutors, made false entries in its business records concerning the true purpose of the $150,000 payment,” according to the statement.
“In a third instance — 12 days before the presidential general election — the Special Counsel wired $130,000 to an attorney for an adult film actress. The Special Counsel, who has since pleaded guilty and served time in prison for making the illegal campaign contribution, made the payment through a shell corporation funded through a bank in Manhattan,” the statement said.
“After winning the election, TRUMP reimbursed the Special Counsel through a series of monthly checks, first from the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust — created in New York to hold the Trump Organization’s assets during TRUMP’s presidency — and later from TRUMP’s bank account. In total, 11 checks were issued for a phony purpose. Nine of those checks were signed by TRUMP. Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as a payment for legal services rendered pursuant to a non-existent retainer agreement. In total, 34 false entries were made in New York business records to conceal the initial covert $130,000 payment. Further, participants in the scheme took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the reimbursements,” said the statement.
Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, was indicted on the charges on Thursday, becoming the first current or former U.S. president to be indicted for criminal conduct.
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