UPDATES: Donald Trump becomes first ex-president to face criminal charges

The former president surrendered himself to authorities on Tuesday after being indicted last week by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 4:35 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 12:15 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Donald Trump spoke for the first time Tuesday night after he was arraigned earlier in the day in New York City on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

“The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” Trump said from his Palm Beach, Florida, home, in front of hundreds of supporters. “We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement. We can’t let that happen ... I have no doubt nevertheless that we will make America great again.”

Trump’s arrest makes him the the nation’s first ex-president to face criminal charges.

Trump surrendered himself in a Manhattan courthouse after he was indicted last week by District Attorney Alvin Bragg. He was booked and pleaded not guilty in Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom.

The nation’s 45th commander-in-chief was escorted from Trump Tower to the courthouse by the Secret Service, and later to a local airport for a private-jet flight to Florida. Trump was scheduled to speak from his Palm Beach, Florida, home, Tuesday evening at a rally. At least 500 prominent supporters have been invited, with some of the most pro-Trump congressional Republicans expected to attend.

A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.

Trump’s indictment adds to his list of firsts in American politics:

  • First president to be impeached in the 21st century
  • First president to be impeached twice in U.S. history, as well as the first to be acquitted twice;
  • First president in the 21st century to be defeated in a re-election bid;
  • First Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to be defeated in a re-election bid;
  • First modern ex-president to lose a re-election bid and then launch a third bid.
  • First ex-president in history to face criminal charges.
  • First ex-president in history to face criminal charges while running a White House campaign.

After Trump left the courthouse, Bragg’s office released a statement, accusing the GOP White House hopeful “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,” the release said. “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.”

Within minutes after his arrival at the courthouse, Trump’s 2024 White House campaign began selling white, unisex t-shirts with a fake mugshot with the words “NOT GUILTY” underneath:

Donald Trump's 2024 presidential campaign has a new fundraising tool.
Donald Trump's 2024 presidential campaign has a new fundraising tool.(WANF)

Bragg arrived at court Tuesday morning in New York ahead of Trump’s arraignment.

Bragg became Manhattan’s first Black district attorney in 2022, following his election the previous November. He inherited a yearslong grand jury investigation into hush money paid on Trump’s behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign.

After taking office, Bragg slowed his office’s move toward an indictment of Trump and said he had concerns about the strength of the case. That sparked a public protest by two prosecutors who were leading the investigation and resigned.

But Bragg convened a new grand jury this year after convicting Trump’s family company for tax fraud. He called that result a “strong demarcation line” for proceeding with other parts of the probe.

New York police braced for protests by Trump supporters, who share the Republican former president’s belief that the New York grand jury indictment and three additional pending investigations are politically motivated and intended to weaken his bid to retake the White House in 2024.

Trump, a former reality TV star, has been hyping that narrative to his political advantage, saying he raised $8 million in the less than a week since the indictment on claims of a “witch hunt.” He has assailed the Manhattan district attorney, egged on supporters to protest and claimed without evidence that the judge presiding over the case “hates me” — something his own lawyer has said is not true.

The investigation is scrutinizing six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.

“While there may be some rabble rousers thinking of coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves,” Mayor Eric Adams said. He also singled out Greene: “While you’re in town, be on your best behavior,” Adams said.

Trump pollster John McLaughlin said the former president would approach the day with “dignity.”

“He will be a gentleman,” McLaughlin said. “He’ll show strength and he’ll show dignity and ... we’ll get through this and win the election.”

Though prosecutors routinely insist that no person is above the law, bringing criminal charges against a former president carries instant logistical complications.


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