Donald Trump has become the first former U.S. President to appear in court in the role of criminal defendant. On Tuesday, the former president surrendered to authorities and pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 presidential election. Trump was only seen briefly outside the district attorney’s office, where he was booked and fingerprinted behind closed doors.
Trump is currently running for president again in 2024 and has argued that the criminal investigation is politically motivated. Inside the courtroom, Trump looked straight ahead and spoke briefly while entering his plea of not guilty. The judge warned him he could be removed from the courtroom if he was disruptive. Outside the court, Trump appeared resigned to the proceedings and posted on his social media site that the experience was “surreal.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who unsealed the indictment against Trump last week, spoke publicly for the first time during the proceedings. He said that accurate and true business records are critical, “especially in Manhattan, because it’s the financial center of the world”.
If convicted of any one of the 34 felony counts, Trump could face a potential prison sentence of up to four years. However, he’d likely be sentenced to far less if found guilty. The judge warned Trump not to make comments that could incite unrest or violence, and set the case for trial in January. This is just weeks away from when the first votes in the 2024 Republican presidential primary will be cast.
While most of the Republicans running or eyeing campaigns have released statements in support of Trump, the indictment has intensified Democratic voters’ opposition to him. It is unclear whether some Republicans or independent voters will also see Trump’s legal troubles as something they cannot ignore.
In addition to being a well-known political figure, Donald Trump is an American businessperson and real estate developer. Trump is the owner of many successful businesses ranging from his own Trump Organization, to his luxury hotels, golf courses, and resorts. Trump is also well known for his reality television show, The Apprentice, and his involvement in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Trump is a polarizing figure in the United States and has been both praised and criticized for his oft-controversial views and policies.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Congresswoman from Georgia, and George Santos, a Congressman from New York, were both seen attending the court session at the Manhattan courthouse. Greene is a strong supporter of Trump and has been a vocal advocate for many of his political ideologies. Santos, on the other hand, is currently facing multiple investigations over lies he told while running for office. Several anti-Trump protesters were also present with banners and signs describing the former president as a liar.
Despite the circus-like atmosphere at the court, Trump was serious and focused inside the courtroom, though he was surrounded by his lawyers. While never taking responsibility for his part in the case, the ex-president voiced his frustrations with the judicial process. The situation is ongoing and all eyes are watching what the outcomes are, as Trump himself flies back to his resort at Mar-a-Lago to make remarks about his day in court.