Manhattan DA Charges Trump with 34 Felony Counts
On Tuesday, the Manhattan district attorney's office announced that former President Donald J. Trump had been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. These low-level felonies are connected to reimbursements made to Trump's former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, for hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump pleaded not guilty in court on the same day.
Larger Scheme to Avoid Negative Press in the 2016 Campaign
Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, released a "statement of facts" outlining a broader scheme involving Trump and others to dodge negative press during the 2016 campaign. This included hush-money payments to another woman claiming an affair with Trump and a former Trump doorman with an unproven claim about Trump having a child out of wedlock.
Grand Jury Process and Trump's E Felony Charges
The criminal charges against Trump were decided by a grand jury composed of regular New Yorkers who heard from witnesses over several months. Trump faces 34 identical counts of E felony, the lowest class of felony in New York State law.
Falsified Invoices for Cohen's Legal Services
Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified invoices related to legal services supposedly provided by Michael D. Cohen. They argue that these invoices represented reimbursements for hush money paid to Stormy Daniels to keep her from sharing her story of a sexual encounter with Trump.
Falsifying Records to Conceal Election Law Violations
To charge falsifying business records as a felony in New York State, the district attorney must prove that the records were falsified to hide another crime. In public remarks and a related "statement of facts," DA Bragg said that Trump orchestrated a scheme to violate election laws and mischaracterize the payments for tax purposes.
Trump Accused of Creating False Records with Checks
A second type of false record that Trump is accused of creating relates to checks written to Cohen, some of which Trump signed himself while president. According to the district attorney, these checks were described as payments for Cohen's legal services but were reimbursements for hush money.
Accusations of False Accounting Records
Trump is also accused of making false accounting records for what prosecutors claim were hush-money reimbursements disguised as legal fees. Trump's company maintained these accounting records during his presidency.
Specific Records and Dates in the 34 Counts
Each of the 34 counts refers to a specific record that Trump is accused of falsifying, specifying the date prosecutors claimed the record was created.
Bragg's Statement of Facts and Broader Narrative
In the "statement of facts," DA Bragg tells a more expansive narrative than the indictment, providing background and context for allegations that Trump falsified records to hide hush-money payments. This story is connected to a larger scheme that Bragg claims Trump led to winning the 2016 presidential election by violating election laws.
"Catch and Kill" and Hush-Money Payments in 2016
"Catch and kill" is a tabloid phrase that describes suppressing stories, often favoring sources or friends. In 2016, American Media Inc.'s chairman, publisher of The National Enquirer, agreed with Trump and Cohen to "catch" and kill negative stories about the candidate.