Trump Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ to 34 Charges

It has begun.

Reuters (“Trump pleads not guilty to 34 criminal charges in New York“):

Donald Trump, the former U.S. president and front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records after an investigation into hush money paid to a porn star.

Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Trump, 76, exhibited little emotion on his face when he waved to a crowd assembled outside the courthouse after he was driven in a motorcade from his New York residence at Trump Tower.

Trump sat with his hands folded as he entered his plea flanked by his lawyers.

“Not guilty,” Trump said when asked how he pleaded.

He is the first sitting or former U.S. president to face criminal charges.

Taken together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison under New York law but an actual prison sentence if he is convicted at a trial would almost certainly be far less than that.

While falsifying business records in New York on its own is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison, it is elevated to a felony punishable by up to four years in prison when done to advance or conceal another crime.

Trump, who has called the charges politically motivated, held his fist in the air in a gesture to reporters as he departed Trump Tower.

YahooNews chief investigative correspondent Michael Iskikoff had an “exclusive” (“Exclusive: Trump to be charged Tuesday with 34 felony counts, but spared handcuffs and mug shot“) last evening about the negotiations ahead of the event:

Donald Trump will be placed under arrest on Tuesday and informed that he has been charged with 34 felony counts for falsification of business records, according to a source who has been briefed on the procedures for the arraignment of the former president.

A New York City police arrest report summarizing the charges against Trump will then be prepared and entered into the court system before he is led into a courtroom to be formally arraigned on the charges, none of which are misdemeanors.

But, the source said, Trump will not be put in handcuffs, placed in a jail cell or subjected to a mug shot — typical procedures even for white-collar defendants until a judge has weighed in on pretrial conditions. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which has been consulting with the Secret Service and New York City court officials, concluded there was no reason to subject the former president to handcuffs or a mug shot.

The stated reason for handcuffing defendants is that they might be a flight risk or a threat to the district attorney or court personnel, neither of which was judged to be relevant to the handling of a former president protected at all times by a phalanx of Secret Service agents.

As much as one might have preferred to see Trump frogmarched in handcuffs, it’s frankly absurd and prejudicial theater in a normal white collar prosecution and would make no sense whatsoever under the circumstances. Trump is literally surrounded by Federal law enforcement officers 24/7/365. He’s not going anywhere.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kathy says:

    If you know you’re guilty and plead not guilty, is it a lie?

    I know it’s not perjury.

  2. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: The only legal significance is that it makes it harder for him to get a lighter sentence if he’s found guilty.

  3. charon says:
  4. charon says:

    So 34 counts of falsifying business records, mostly each separate check or each separate ledger entry, arranged chronologically Feb 14, 2017 through December 5, 2017.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    Considering all the stuff Trump has been linked to, this does come off somewhat like getting Al Capone due to tax evasion….

  6. Gustopher says:

    As much as one might have preferred to see Trump frogmarched in handcuffs, it’s frankly absurd and prejudicial theater in a normal white collar prosecution and would make no sense whatsoever under the circumstances.

    That stinks of classism. The distinction between a white collar criminal and a regular criminal is vile. The white collar criminals do a lot more damage.

    Per Mr. Guthrie:

    Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
    I’ve seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    And as through your life you travel,
    Yes, as through your life you roam,
    You won’t never see an outlaw
    Drive a family from their home.

    And the only way to remove the prejudice is to make it routine. Handcuff everyone heading into arraignment, former presidents included.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: To be clear, I think the performative bullshit is inappropriate across the board unless there’s a legitimate concern for the safety of arresting officers or bystanders. The accused are entitled to the presumption of innocence, which is undermined by seeing them cuffed and stuffed.

  8. inhumans99 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yup, but hey…a mob boss was indeed brought down by tax evasion, whatever works, works. Any port in a storm and all that. If this is the first of hopefully many ports the Feds have to pull into to methodically start to diminish the Trump empire I can live with that.

    I am surprised that Trump did not pump his fist in the air and chant Attica, Attica. I also feel that Trump is in bigger trouble than most people realize and these charges are just the start of his troubles.

  9. CSK says:

    He didn’t neglect to apply his make-up, but his coiffure seems a bit mussed.

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, Trump wasn’t running liquor and controlling the rackets in Chicago. He’s just a real estate developer and a lousy one at that. Considering that this is the 2nd criminal case against filed the Trump org relating to extensive fraud, it’s a sign that much of what he put onto paper was fraudulent. People who are pretending this isn’t a big deal are basically saying that it’s okay for white collar people to go on white collar crime sprees.

  11. CSK says:

    Putin’s pal Viktor Orban tells Trump to “keep fighting.”

  12. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    So long as they get him, preferably behind bars, I don’t care if it is for littering.

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Correct. You might recall that I commented a few days ago that each falsified transaction is a separate offense and the punitive terms apply individually. Normally these are combined for trial and sentencing, but Bragg had the option to choose not to combine. He swung for the fences here. It dramatically increases the odds that Trump will be convicted for at least a few of them IMLO.

    And under NY State law, the penalty is one to five years for each offense.

  14. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    I’m not sure how you defend yourself against 34 checks, especially when your co-conspirators have already pled guilty and/or admitted to the illegal acts.
    In any case this is going to take forever…Trump may not even live long enough to see the end of the trial. 76 years old and tremendously unhealthy…the stress of a couple more indictments, surely coming his way, may just do him in.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: They were able to nail Capone on taxes because he couldn’t report his income, which came from criminal activities. So a bit indirect, but still flowing from his crimes.

  16. Kathy says:

    Here’s a clip of the Cheeto entering the courtroom.

    IMO, it ranks up there with the helicopter walk of shame.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Modulo Myself: No. In this case, we’re saying that we don’t care whether the money that a candidate used to pay a hook up to hush up should be listed as a campaign expense. @grumpy realist: Which is why I’m still on the page with this being less like Capone and more like Clinton.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    unless there’s a legitimate concern for the safety of arresting officers or bystanders

    I think we all know how such a determination would be made. Best to not make a determination, and handcuff them all so there’s no judgement involved. Maybe don’t parade them in front of cameras.

    (I would also accept Silence of the Lambs straitjacket, mask and board, on the grounds that no one can even recognize the accused at that point.)

  19. charon says:

    more light reading:

    Statement of facts – a narrative.

  20. Kathy says:

    A report on the protests surrounding Benito’s overdue arrest.

    The wingnut winner today might be the Representative from Q. She can claim to have been cancelled. Alas, there was no sighting of any Gazpacho Police.

  21. dazedandconfused says:

    Large fine and one year of ankle-bracelet house arrest. Stuck in the house, he will be allowed to see his golf course but not play on it. And within a month every staffer at Mar A Lago will either be fired or wish they would be.

    Remember, you heard it here first…

  22. charon says:

    some interpretaion, timing discussion etc:

    At this stage, the public has no sense of the additional evidence Bragg’s grand jury has undoubtedly accumulated in the form of written records or perhaps even audiotape evidence to back up the fundamental theory that Trump engaged in this elaborate silencing scheme to help him win the presidency. And we won’t know more for some time.

    The government has asked the judge for a January 16, 2024 trial date—two weeks before the currently scheduled date of the New Hampshire primary for the 2024 presidential race. Trump’s lawyers made a bid for trial to begin later that spring. The case will likely be delayed in any event, while Trump’s lawyers file a wave of motions to dismiss the indictment or reduce the charges to a misdemeanor (which would fall outside the statute of limitations) and, failing that, to narrow the evidence that goes to the jury, among other things.


    But contrary to the expectations of many commentators, Bragg’s case does not hinge exclusively on Cohen’s testimony. The potential testimony of a number of other people is discussed in the statement of facts, including:

    A former Trump Tower doorman who was allegedly trying to sell information regarding a child he claimed Trump fathered out of wedlock, and whom American Media, Inc. (AMI) paid $30,000 for exclusive rights to the story.
    Woman 1, who is presumably Karen McDougal, another woman who received $150,000 in hush money from the Trump team and “alleged she had a sexual relationship with the Defendant while he was married.” When Cohen told Trump that he’d open up a company for the transfer of money to McDougal, Trump asked: “‘So what do we got to pay for this? One fifty?’ and suggested paying by cash.”
    David Pecker, chairman and chief executive officer of AMI, which owned the National Enquirer. The indictment alleges:
    In or about September 2018, AMI entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in connection with AMI’s payoff of Woman 1, admitting that “[a]t no time during the negotiation or acquisition of [Woman 1’s] story did AMI intend to publish the story or disseminate information about it publicly.”

    Allegedly, AMI admitted that it made the payment to ensure that Woman 1 “did not publicize damaging allegations” about Trump “before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election.”

    AMI’s chief content officer, who contacted Cohen about McDougal and was involved in other parts of the scheme.
    Woman 2, who is presumably Stormy Daniels.
    Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization chief financial officer, who pleaded guilty to a 15-year tax fraud scheme in connection with the company.
    Lawyer B, who was counsel for Daniels, and negotiated the deal with Cohen and received a $30,000 wire on her behalf.
    The Trump Organization’s controller, who was involved in the invoicing of the “retainer” repayments to Cohen, but doesn’t necessarily know anything about Trump’s state of mind.
    The Trump Organization’s accounts payable supervisor, who recorded each payment from the Trump Organization’s electronic accounting system, and likewise might not know about Trump’s intentions.
    Lawyer C, who in April 2018, offered a backchannel between Cohen and Trump, writing, “you have friends in high places.” This person’s testimony could conceivably link the scheme to Trump himself. The charging documents continue:
    On or about June 14, 2018, Lawyer C emailed Lawyer A a news clip discussing the possibility of Lawyer A cooperating, and continued to urge him not to cooperate with law enforcement, writing, “The whole objective of this exercise by the [federal prosecutors] is to drain you, emotionally and financially, until you reach a point that you see them as your only means to salvation.” In the same email , Lawyer C, wrote, “You are making a very big mistake if you believe the stories these ‘journalists’ are writing about you. They want you to cave. They want you to fail. They do not want you to persevere and succeed.”

    Lawyer D, Cohen’s lawyer, who had close relationship with Lawyer C and communicated with Lawyer C about Cohen not cooperating with the government.

  23. CSK says:


    Trump’s trial starts in January 2024. If he’s sentenced to house arrest he won’t be able to do much campaigning, will he?

  24. Kathy says:


    Don’t the wingnuts insist Biden campaigned without ever leaving his basement?

    Of course, who knows how many more indictments will have dropped by then.

  25. dazedandconfused says:


    Alas and alack. He could open the gates to Mar A Lago and host massive rallies though, and preach to them from the balcony. Surely the members won’t mind.

  26. CSK says:

    @Kathy: @dazedandconfused:

    Guess who didn’t show up for Trumps’ speech/rally at MAGA-Lardo tonight? His lovely and loving wife, that’s who.

  27. Kathy says:

    IMO, Benito has a golden chance to show how a “great” businessman he is. He could push for an earlier trial date, and negotiate with some network to air his new reality show: The Defendant.

    Later he could host a new one: The Convict.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Sadly, it’s not all bad news for Trump today.

    Trump Gets Good News About Stormy Daniels Case While in Court
    Story by Nick Reynolds • 3h ago

    Facing 34 felony counts in the investigation of hush money payments to onetime adult-film star Stormy Daniels, former President Donald Trump’s camp likely welcomed some positive news after spending Tuesday afternoon in a Manhattan courtroom.

    Donald Trump (left) and Stormy Daniels (right)
    Donald Trump (left) and Stormy Daniels (right)
    © Timothy Clary/Drew Angerer/Newsweek Photo Illustration/Getty Images
    He didn’t have to wait long. At the same time Trump and his legal team prepared their defense, Trump’s attorneys on the other side of the country in California learned Daniels—the star witness in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case—might owe him some money. A lot of it.

    Shortly after the allegations of hush money became public, Daniels filed a defamation suit against then-President Donald Trump after he posted a tweet questioning Daniels’ story of being threatened to keep quiet about an alleged affair between them.

    Daniels—then working with disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti—claimed an unknown man had threatened her in 2011 in a Las Vegas, Nevada, parking lot to keep quiet about the alleged intimate relationship she’d had with the former president. A hush money payment followed, by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who testified that he paid it on the ex-president’s behalf.

    Current Time 0:40
    Duration 0:40
    View on Watch
    Why Did the Stormy Daniels Case Lead to Donald Trump’s First Indictment?
    Why Did the Stormy Daniels Case Lead to Donald Trump’s First Indictment?
    After Avenatti released an artist’s sketch depicting the man who Daniels said threatened her, Twitter user posted a side-by-side comparison of Daniels’ ex-husband and the alleged attacker. Trump responded: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

    Daniels then filed a lawsuit against Trump in California. The judge ultimately found Trump was merely expressing his opinion when he posted the tweet, and ordered Daniels to reimburse him $300,000 in legal fees.
    On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Daniels would be required to compensate Trump roughly $122,000 in additional attorney fees, piling onto the hundreds of thousands she’d already owed him from previous proceedings.

  29. CSK says:


    And after that The Prisoner and after that The Fugitive.

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Curse this blasted Parkinson’s!!! :-X I meant only to paste from the portion of the article that began “After Avenatti…” Sorry. 🙁

  31. Kathy says:


    I wouldn’t have guessed she was smart enough not to pay attention to the toddler while he throws a tantrum, but instead let him carry on until he’s more tired than cranky.

  32. Kathy says:


    ..and after that The Fugitive.

    The only way I’d watch that one, is if the protagonist dies in a shootout.

  33. Lounsbury says:

    @Kathy: Unless one agrees with the assertion of legal guilt, even if one knows one did X events, it would hardly be a lie to plead not guilty.

  34. Tony W says:

    @dazedandconfused: These are New York charges. His ankle bracelet will be in New York.

    He’ll be stuck at the top of his “tower” watching people live their lives from afar.