Former president Donald Trump appeared at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday to formally face charges after his indictment by a grand jury last week. He is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime, in a case involving hush money payments to an adult-film actress. Here’s what we know about the indictment, which was just released.

What are the charges against Trump?

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records under Article 175 of the New York Penal Law.

Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an “intent to defraud” that includes an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” a crime. In this case, prosecutors will have to prove that Trump is guilty of maintaining false business records with the intent to hide a $130,000 payment in the days before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged 2006 affair.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at a news conference after the court hearing that the alleged scheme was intended to cover up violations of New York election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to illegally promote a candidate. Bragg also said the $130,000 payment exceeded the federal campaign contribution cap.

Under New York law, most nonviolent felonies must be charged within five years of the alleged misconduct. But legal experts say the statute-of-limitations clock could be paused under certain circumstances, including during the period in which a defendant moves out of the state.

Does that mean Trump is charged with 34 different crimes?

No, the indictment lists 34 felony counts under the same New York statute. Each count represents a separate instance of alleged misconduct, but not a different type of crime.

Daniels was paid by then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who was reimbursed by Trump after the election. The indictment details false entries in the Trump Organization’s general ledger and checks paid to Cohen in 2017 that prosecutors say were falsely recorded as payments for legal services.

What are the likely punishments for those charges?

If convicted of the felony bookkeeping fraud charge, Trump faces up to four years in prison for each count. The judge could impose consecutive sentences, meaning Trump would have to serve them one after the other.

The charge does not carry a mandatory prison sentence, however. Even if convicted on all counts, Trump would not necessarily face jail time. As a first-time offender with no criminal record, legal experts say, it is uncertain whether the former president and 2024 White House candidate would be sentenced to prison if convicted.

Do we know how Trump will respond to the charges?

Trump pleaded not guilty during the arraignment hearing Tuesday afternoon. His attorney Joe Tacopina said Sunday that the former president will eventually move to have the charges dismissed.

Perry Stein contributed to this report.

The Washington Post


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