Apr. 4, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
Following ex-President Donald Trump pleading not guilty to a 34-count indictment alleging he broke state law by falsifying business records, New York politicos were quick to weigh-in on the first commander-in-chief to be arrested on criminal charges.
The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Tuesday, accuses Trump of running a “catch and kill” scheme in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election to track down and purchase negative information about him, with the goal of boosting his electoral chances. It also charges Trump then falsified documents to cover up those transactions.
One of the instances highlighted in the indictment involves Trump allegedly falsifying documents to obfuscate a $130,000 hush money payment his former attorney, Michael Cohen, made to a lawyer for Stormy Daniels — an ex-adult film actress.
“The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” Bragg said in a statement.
“Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market,” he added. “We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct. As the Statement of Facts describes, the trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws. As this office has done time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law.”
Before pleading not guilty during his hour-long arraignment before Judge Juan Merchan in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon, Trump was fingerprinted and processed. He then quickly left the courthouse and went to Laguardia Airport, where he boarded his private jet back to his home state of Florida.
Congress Member Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), in a statement, characterized the Trump indictment as “methodical” and “well-reasoned,” while taking aim at Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for last week saying Bragg would be held “to account” for pursuing the case against the former president.
“On its face, this indictment seems methodical and well-reasoned … And this matter will play out in the New York criminal justice system, no matter how MAGA Republicans try to obstruct the process,” Nadler said.
“In a desperate attempt to protect Mr. Trump, the most extreme House Republicans are already trying to bully the law enforcement officers involved,” he added. “I do not know how this case will be decided, but I do know that DA Bragg will not be deterred or intimidated by the political stunts [Republican Congress Member] Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy throw at him.”
Rev. Al Sharpton said Trump’s indictment Tuesday bares particular significance on the 55th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination 1968 assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I’m thinking of Dr. King today as the first Black Manhattan DA will deliver us justice and bring criminal charges against President Trump,” Sharpton said, in a statement.
But not everyone is celebrating Trump’s arrest. State Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar repeated what has become a common defense of the former president from the right: that the indictment is more about Bragg playing politics to damage Trump’s 2024 presidential bid than holding him accountable for his alleged crimes.
“Today’s action has more to do with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg than it does with former President Donald Trump,” Kassar said. “It’s a political prosecution that should chill every American to the core, whether one supports Mr. Trump or not. Mr. Bragg campaigned on prosecuting Mr. Trump without having seen any evidence of lawbreaking. He promised that, if elected, he’d use the power of his office to destroy the former president and current presidential candidate, and that’s what he’s now trying to do for political advantage.”