Manhattan, NY- Retrieved from The Center Square
Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer seven years ago and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.
Trump offered his “not guilty” plea during his arraignment before Judge Juan Merchan in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York.
Before the arraignment, Trump surrendered to New York Police after a grand jury voted to indict him last week, marking the first time a current or former president has been charged with a crime. Trump also is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
Videos showed Trump wearing a red tie escorted by Secret Service to the courthouse to turn himself in to authorities, where he was processed before his arraignment.
“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse,” he posted to Truth Social on his way to the courtroom. “Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The indictment, which had remained sealed since it was handed down last week, was unsealed after Tuesday’s arraignment. It alleges Trump falsified business records related to the hush money scheme.
Trump, who denies the charges, also posted a series of urgent messages blasting Democrats and New York County District Attorney, Alvin Bragg.
“THE RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRATS HAVE CRIMINALIZED THE JUSTICE SYSTEM,” Trump posted on TruthSocial. “THIS IS NOT WHAT AMERICA WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!”
Trump’s family and many Republicans have centered their criticism on Bragg, a George Soros-backed prosecutor who has been lax on many violent criminals during his tenure. Soros is a billionaire donor to Democrats across the country.
“The entire system is rigged!” Eric Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Trump on Monday flew from Florida to New York for the arraignment. He is expected to deliver closely watched remarks from Mar-a-Lago Tuesday evening.
Trump blasted leaks from the prosecutor’s office as well.
“Speaking of LEAKS, Special “Prosecutor” Jack Smith (What did his name used to be?) leaked massive amounts of information to The Washington ComPost,” Trump wrote on TruthSocial. “This is illegal, and I assume this Radical Left Lunatic, much to the chagrin of his Trump Hating wife and family, will be PROSECUTED? He is a totally biased Thug who should be let loose on the Biden Documents hidden in Chinatown, and the 1,850 BOXES secretly stored in Delaware, which Biden REFUSES to give up. Biden is guilty of Obstruction, I am not!”
While the indictment naturally presents challenges for Trump, analysts speculate that the legal battle could propel Trump as a martyr of the “rigged” system he regularly makes a focus of his message.
A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll reports that Trump’s numbers among Republicans have spiked since the indictment. The latest poll puts Trump well ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, assumed to be the biggest threat to Trump’s chances to win the GOP nomination for president in 2024, by 26 percentage points.