Former President Donald Trump repeatedly made false statements on business records in New York in an effort to cover up other crimes, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at a press conference held shortly after Trump’s arraignment Tuesday afternoon. The former president pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony charges.
“These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are. We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct,” Bragg told reporters.
Bragg said that Trump, executives at the publishing company American Media Incorporated, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, and others agreed to a “catch and kill” scheme in 2015, planning to “buy and suppress negative information to help Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the election.”
As part of that scheme, Bragg said, Trump and others made three different payments to people who claimed to have negative information about the former president that Trump and his allies worried would hurt his chances at winning the 2016 presidential election. One of those three people was Stormy Daniels, Bragg said, the porn star who claimed she had an affair with Trump — and whom Cohen has admitted to making a $130,000 hush money payment to, claiming he did so at Trump’s behest.
“Why did Donald Trump repeatedly make these false statements? The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election,” Bragg said.
In a statement released just after Trump’s arraignment earlier Tuesday, Bragg said that “Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. 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.”
The former president repeatedly attacked Bragg in posts on Truth Social in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s arraignment, calling him “racist,” an “animal.” Trump was criticized for a post — which has since been deleted — that showed a photo of him holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Bragg, with a warning that his indictment could cause “potential death & destruction” around the country. Trump later denied knowingly posting the photo.
The press conference was one of the first times Bragg spoke publicly about the case, though his office had previously addressed it in a letter to some House Republicans after they demanded Bragg release information related to the indictment.
“Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court and avail himself of all processes and protections that New York State’s robust criminal procedure affords. What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State,” Bragg’s office wrote in a letter to Judiciary, Oversight and Administration Chairs Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.).
“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” the letter said.
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