Apr 5, 2023

Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felony Counts of Falsification of Business Records Transcript

Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felony Counts of Falsification of Business Records Transcript
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Former President Donald Trump was arrested and arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday, becoming the first U.S. president to face criminal charges. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome to the News Hour. Today was an unprecedented day in American history. Former President Donald Trump arrested and arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom, the first US president to face criminal charges.

Speaker 2 (00:13):

Mr. Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records relating to hush money payments during the 2016 campaign, and with the indictment unsealed today, we’re learning new details about the Manhattan district attorney’s case and the former president’s defense.

Donald Trump tonight, now a criminal defendant.

Speaker 3 (00:33):

President Trump.

Speaker 2 (00:34):

The first former US president to be arrested on criminal charges, in connection to his alleged role in a hush money payment scheme. This afternoon, Mr. Trump traveled by motorcade from Trump Tower to surrender to authorities at the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan.

While in custody, the former president was fingerprinted, but received special accommodations. He was not handcuffed or put in a jail cell and did not have his mugshot taken.

The judge in the case did not allow video cameras in the courtroom but permitted a handful of still photographers to take pictures. During a nearly hour long proceeding, Mr. Trump was arraigned and charged with 34 felonies. The former president pleaded not guilty.

Speaker 4 (01:15):

Look up, Stormy. Look up.

Speaker 2 (01:17):

The case involves payoffs through an intermediary to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to conceal an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 election. Following the arraignment, Mr. Trump’s attorney spoke to reporters.

Speaker 5 (01:29):

He’s frustrated. He’s upset. But I’ll tell you what, he’s motivated and it’s not going to stop him and it’s not going to slow him down.

Speaker 2 (01:37):

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has faced an onslaught of attacks from Mr. Trump and his supporters, defended the charges.

Speaker 6 (01:45):

As this office has done time and time again, we, today, uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.

Speaker 2 (02:03):

Earlier Tuesday, dozens of Trump supporters flocked to Lower Manhattan, heeding the former president’s calls to protest. Among them was Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Speaker 7 (02:13):

They’re coming after President Trump today, and they will come after you tomorrow. President Trump did nothing wrong.

Speaker 2 (02:22):

And scandal-ridden GOP Congressman George Santos.

Speaker 8 (02:25):

I’m here to support the President of the United States who is being unfairly attacked by a DA.

Speaker 2 (02:31):

A team of New York City police, Secret Service, and Port Security barricaded and controlled the crush of a crowd, as members of the media stood in line for hours for a seat inside the courtroom where the former president faced Judge Juan Merchan, who just this morning, Mr. Trump called, “Highly partisan” and, “A well-known Trump hater.” He also said the case should be moved to nearby Staten Island, which he views as friendlier political ground.

Tonight, Donald Trump returns to his Mar-A-Lago home where he’s addressing his arraignment in a primetime speech.

Speaker 1 (03:09):

To give us a sense of what happened in that courtroom today, I’m joined by Andrea Bernstein. She covers democracy for Pro Publica and Trump legal matters for NPR, and is the author of American Oligarchs: The Kushners, The Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power. Andrea, welcome back and thanks for joining us.

Most of us saw just brief glimpses of those proceedings today. For example, the short video clip of Mr. Trump, very somber, being led into that courtroom earlier today, but you were in the room, so describe for us what it was like in the room, what you observed.

Speaker 9 (03:44):

In one sense, it was totally normal. Here is the very same courtroom where Trump’s former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was indicted and pleaded guilty. This was the courtroom where Trump’s own company was last December found guilty of multiple felonies.

But it was also extraordinary, because, first of all, the security was like nothing I’ve ever seen. There were court officers lining the center aisle all around the room, Secret Service, police. There was an atmosphere. No laptops, no electronics, enforced quiet. You could hear a little bit of the protests but there was the former president of the United States having to say to a judge, “Not guilty”, something we’ve obviously never seen and quite extraordinary to see in-person.

Speaker 1 (04:31):

34 counts, as we mentioned, to falsifying business records in the first degree. We’re going to dive more deeply into the legal details in just a moment but you have covered him for so long. I just need to ask what stands out to you about these charges?

Speaker 9 (04:45):

Of course, we didn’t know in the courtroom what the charges were going to be and we heard for the first time, 34 felony counts, and we understood a little bit more today about what that is.

In New York, there has to be an underlying crime, you are falsifying the business records to do what? We learned three answers, one was to conceal a conspiracy in New York, to violate campaign finance laws by conspiring to, in essence, disrupt an election, also a violation of federal laws by giving donations in excess, and a violation to further violation of tax laws.

We learned all that today, and then there was also extensive back and forth about the former president’s social media posts and how they may affect these legal proceedings.

Speaker 1 (05:28):

Andrea, you’ve covered him for so long, you’ve noticed everything about Mr. Trump. I just wonder, to see him in this way, to be sitting at that table like any other criminal defendant, what strikes you about that?

Speaker 9 (05:40):

We have never … You know, so many people have asked me over the years, is he ever going to be indicted? Is he going to be held accountable? His company was, of course, convicted last year but he hasn’t been. Here is a case where the prosecutors stood up and said the rule of law applies. The judge also treated the former president in that way. The rule of law applies, something that’s happened in other countries but never here.

I think there is a truth telling that goes on in a court of law that is very different from the political sphere that we are about to see play out in this new case, the people of the state of New York versus Donald Trump.

Speaker 1 (06:17):

There’s a long way to go ahead, Andrea. Briefly in the time we have left, what will you be watching?

Speaker 9 (06:22):

Well, I’m going to be watching to see how Mr. Trump’s legal team handles the timing, because they’re going to try to sort of get the case dismissed, perhaps delay, but on the other hand, there’s a presidential election coming up and the more they do that, the more that they potentially put a potential trial right in the middle of high campaign season, which is really something that we’ve never seen before in this country.

Speaker 1 (06:46):

Andrea Bernstein, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Speaker 9 (06:50):

Thank you.

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