For the first time in U.S. history, a former U.S. President—Donald Trump—has been criminally charged.
Trump’s arraignment followed an indictment by a Manhattan grand jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and conspiracy with regards to hush money payments to at least two women during the 2016 campaign season.
According to reports, Trump did not have a mugshot taken, nor was he handcuffed. He was, however, fingerprinted.
The arraignment got started about 15 minutes late, at roughly 2:30pm ET, during which Trump had the charges read to him, and he pleaded not guilty.
The arraignment came after former Trump attorney and self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen testified twice before the grand jury.
Cohen had pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal crimes and served prison time for his role in the payoff of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, a campaign contribution violation during the 2016 election cycle, since it was made in service of the Trump campaign and $130,000 exceeded the federal limit.
The former Trump fixer has asserted that he paid the hush money out of his own personal funds, then was reimbursed by the Trump Organization and also paid extra bonuses for a total that eventually rose to $420,000.
Trump has consistently denied all wrongdoing and attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, accusing him of leading a politically motivated prosecution. He has also denied any affair with Daniels, who had been looking to sell her story during the 2016 campaign.
However, Daniels’ hush money payment came after former Playboy model Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 in 2016 by the National Enquirer for her story about having had a 10-month affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. The tabloid never ran her story, but in paying her the Enquirer kept McDougal from selling it to any other media outlet, in a practice called “catch and kill.”
Trump has publicly denied having had an affair with either woman, but former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker—whom Cohen tried but failed to get to buy Daniels’ story in 2016—testified before the Manhattan grand jury on March 27.
The criminal arraignment of a former U.S. President is unprecedented in U.S. history. An arraignment in Manhattan could potentially open the door for other prosecutors as Trump is under criminal investigation not just in New York, but also in Georgia and the federal government for his role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House.