Former President Donald Trump was charged by a New York grand jury with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an indictment unsealed Tuesday, with prosecutors detailing an alleged years-long scheme toto suppress damaging information before the 2016 election.
In a historic, highly choreographed appearance that followed strict security protocols, Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing in a lower Manhattan courtroom, becoming the first former president to face criminal prosecution. He has denied all wrongdoing and said District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is motivated by politics in bringing the case.
In aand accompanying statement of facts, prosecutors said Trump "orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant's electoral prospects."
They said the scheme involved three payments made by Trump allies to conceal damaging stories: $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who said Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock; $150,000 to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump; and $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who also alleged an affair. Trump has denied having affairs with both women, and the company that paid the former doorman determined his story was false.
Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and "fixer," made the payment to Daniels in the days before the 2016 election. Prosecutors said Trump illegally disguised his reimbursement to Cohen by classifying them as legal fees.
"The payment records, kept and maintained by the Trump Organization, were false New York business records. In truth, there was no retainer agreement, and Lawyer A was not being paid for legal services rendered in 2017," the statement of facts said, referring to Cohen. "The Defendant caused his entities' business records to be falsified to disguise his and others' criminal conduct."
Falsifying business records is typically a misdemeanor under New York law, but can be charged as a felony if done with an "intent to defraud [that] includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof." Prosecutors said Trump's conduct was intended to violate election laws.
At the end of the hearing, the former president was released and soon boarded a flight home to Florida, where he is set toat his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday evening.
Trump addresses supporters at Mar-a-Lago
Former President Donald Trump turned remarks after his arraignment on criminal charges in Manhattan into a campaign-style speech, suggesting the charges against him are the latest move by his critics to stop him from becoming the 47th president of the United States.
"I never thought anything like this could happen in America," Trump told an engaged crowd of supporters at his Florida club, Mar-a-Lago. "Never thought it could happen. The only crime that I've committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it."
As Trump prepared to speak Tuesday evening, the ballroom filled up with club members, invited supporters, among them Trump's staunchest allies: failed candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr.; Kimberly Guilfoyle and Trump's daughter Tiffany Trump.
There were about 375 chairs set up for the former president's remarks, with Trump speaking from a podium with a Trump sign flanked by teleprompter panes.
Stormy Daniels ordered to pay Trump's legal fees in defamation case
On the same day that former President Trump was indicted in relation to a payment made to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star was ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to pay $121,000 for his legal fees in another case.
The fees are owed for work by several lawyers at two law firms, Harder LLP and Dhillon Law Group,
Daniels had sued Trump for defamation based on a tweet he had posted about her. The tweet showed a photo of Daniels' ex-husband next to a composite sketch Daniels commissioned that depicted an unknown man she claimed had threatened her when she was about to go public with her claim about an affair with Trump.
The judge dismissed her case in 2018 and ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees. She appealed the order, arguing the fees were too high. The court found that her "argument that the fee request is unreasonable and excessive is not well-founded." The court denied a small fraction of the fees submitted: Trump's request for $5,150 to prepare the document for the fee reply because it was "not itemized."
Legal experts say Trump felony charges will be difficult to prove
While the indictment against a former president is an extraordinary development in U.S. history, legal experts noted Trump's conviction is far from assured, saying it will not be easy for Manhattan prosecutors to prove he committed a felony.
The falsification of business records is typically a misdemeanor offense under New York state law. But it can be upgraded to a low-level felony if the prosecution can show the defendant committed the offense with the intention to commit or conceal another crime. The 34 counts unveiled by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Tuesday were all felony charges, with prosecutors arguing the former president also violated unspecified election laws.
Randy Zelin, a Cornell Law School professor who previously worked as a white collar defense lawyer and prosecutor, said Bragg could face significant hurdles in convincing a jury that Trump intended to commit or conceal another crime when he allegedly falsified business records to conceal the hush money payments.
"I think it will be difficult to prevail on the felonies," Zelin told CBS News. "The falsifying of entries misdemeanor — that's a slam dunk."
Jessica Levinson, a CBS News legal analyst and Loyola Law School professor, said it appears Manhattan prosecutors have a "very strong case" to argue that false business entries were made as part of the "catch and kill" strategy to suppress negative stories about Trump. But she agreed that connecting that alleged offense with violations of election laws or other crimes will be more challenging.
"Unless you have a smoking gun, showing intent to commit another crime can always be a challenge," she said.
Inside the courtroom as Trump pleaded not guilty
Donald Trump has had many titles in his 76 years: CEO, reality television host, casino magnate, beauty pageant owner and President of the United States, among others.
When he silently walked into a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday afternoon, it was with a title neither he nor any former president in American history has had: criminal defendant.
Though flanked by more than two dozen court officers and Secret Service agents, Trump was otherwise like any of the countless thousands of defendants who have sat in room 1530 of the eight-decade-old Manhattan Criminal Court building.
A court clerk read the charges —of falsification of business records — as a court reporter, who himself has transcribed thousands of cases, documented each word.
Judge Juan Merchan asked for the defendant's plea.
"Not guilty," Trump said.
Key takeaways from the Trump indictment and statement of facts
The 16-page indictment lists dates with brief boilerplate descriptions of crimes corresponding to the allegedly false business records. The accompanying statement of facts gives more detailed information about the reimbursement payments to Cohen and how Trump and his associates allegedly tried to conceal the reason for the Cohen payments and the damaging allegations about Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The documents lay out the rationale for the charges, details about the alleged "catch and kill" scheme, information about a pressure campaign on Cohen and more.
Read highlights from both documents.
Bragg says his office had "additional evidence" that predecessor lacked
At a news conference following Trump's arraignment, District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his office had "additional evidence" that wasn't available to his predecessor, something that he said allowed him to bring the case forward now.
"We have had available to the office additional evidence that was not in the office's possession prior to my time here," Bragg said, when asked why he was bringing the case forward now when other prosecutors declined to do so.
"I bring cases when they're ready," Bragg said.
The district attorney alleged that, for nine months, Trump "repeatedly" made false statements on business records. Falsifying business records with intent to defraud and intent to conceal another crime is a felony in New York.
"That is exactly what this case is about — 34 false statements made to cover up other crimes," Bragg said. "These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are. We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct."
Bragg says Trump claimed he was paying his then-attorney Michael Cohen for legal services performed in 2017, but Bragg says that wasn't true.
"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.
Trump's plane leaves New York, bound for Florida
Former President Trump's plane lifted off from New York's LaGuardia airport at about 4:20 p.m., bound for Florida.
Trump isfrom Mar-a-Lago at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina says talk of a change of venue is "premature"
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told reporters Tuesday that any talk of a change of venue is "premature," hours after the former president posted to his social media site that the case should be moved to Staten Island.
"We're not PR consultants, we're not social media consultants," Tacopina said when asked about the former president's use of social media to theorize about his case.
Tacopina said his client was being targeted because of politics. "Any other defendant wouldn't be here today," Tacopina said.
Indictment alleges Trump orchestrated scheme to suppress damaging stories
In the indictment and an accompanying statement of facts, prosecutors said Trump "orchestrated" a scheme to keep damaging stories from public view, one that prosecutors say continued into Trump's presidency.
"During the  election, TRUMP and others employed a 'catch and kill' scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects", the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said in a news release along with the indictment. "TRUMP then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws."
The Manhattan district attorney says Trump concealed his "catch and kill" scheme through false business entries from August 2015 to December 2017.
The indictment focuses on three payments that allegedly led to the falsification of records: a $30,000 payment to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed Trump had a child out of wedlock; $150,000 paid to a woman, known to be former Playboy model Karen McDougal, in exchange for her story about an alleged affair; and a $130,000 payment made on Trump's behalf to Stormy Daniels by Trump's attorney Michael Cohen.
After the 2016 election, prosecutors say Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of checks from a trust and his bank account that were processed through the Trump Organization and disguised as covering legal expenses. The Manhattan D.A. said 11 checks were issued for a "phony" purpose.
"In total, 34 false entries were made in New York business records to conceal the initial covert $130,000 payment," the D.A.'s office said. "Further, participants in the scheme took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the reimbursements."
Read the full Trump indictment charging him with 34 felony counts
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office released theshortly after Trump left the courthouse. Read it in full below:
Trump pleads not guilty to 34 counts
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records included in the indictment, according to CBS News' Scott MacFarlane, who was in the courthouse for the arraignment.
A court transcript, released after the proceedings concluded, captures the moment as Judge Juan Merchan got to the business at hand:
THE COURT: Let's arraign Mr. Trump.
THE CLERK: Donald J. Trump, the grand jury of New York County has filed indictment 71543 of 2023 charging you with the crimes of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. How do you plead to this indictment, guilty or not guilty?
DEFENDANT MR. TRUMP: Not guilty.
Lawyers for both sides had an opportunity to address some of the evidence, and they discussed the schedule for the next phases of the case. Prosecutors told the court they intend to request a trial date in January 2024. The arraignment lasted about an hour.
Trump left the courtroom shortly before 3:30 p.m. and quickly departed the courthouse in his motorcade.
Trump doesn't speak as he heads into courtroom for arraignment
After being processed, cameras spotted the former president, free of any handcuffs, somberly making his way into the courtroom where his arraignment is being held. He didn't speak to reporters gathered in the hallway.
How Trump's arraignment will likely play out
After being processed, Trump is set to appear in court before Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing his arraignment. At the hearing, a court clerk will read the charges against Trump, at which point the indictment will be unsealed. Trump's attorneys could ask the judge to pause the proceedings to review the charges. He will then plead not guilty, according to his lawyers.
All of this will play out behind closed doors, since Merchan ruled that no video recordings would be permitted. A handful of still photographers will be allowed to take pictures briefly before the proceedings.
The former president will not be in handcuffs, and he is almost certain to be released at the end of the hearing given the nature of the expected charges. There are currently no plans for Trump to speak until this evening when he is back in Florida, but that could change.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is set to speak about the case at a.
Trump posts on Truth Social: "Seems so SURREAL"
Trump appeared to post on his social media platform Truth Social as he headed downtown to face criminal charges. He left Trump Tower shortly before 1:15 p.m. ET, and posted on Truth Social at 1:22 p.m. He arrived at the courthouse a few minutes later.
"Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse," the post said. "Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can't believe this is happening in America. MAGA!"
Trump arrives at courthouse for processing and arraignment
Trump's motorcade arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan, where he is surrendering to authorities for processing. He is due in court at 2:15 p.m. for arraignment, when the charges against him will be unveiled.
News helicopters captured his motorcade cutting through mostly empty New York streets as it made its way to the courthouse, a few miles south of Trump Tower. Cameras spotted Trump getting out of his SUV and waving to the crowd as he went into the building.
Trump was set to be brought to the seventh floor so he will be read his rights and fingerprinted.
At arraignment, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman noted that Trump's team might want to pause the proceedings to read the charge or charges against him before entering a plea.
Trump leaves Trump Tower for courthouse
News cameras spotted Trump leaving Trump Tower and getting into an SUV. His Secret Service motorcade then departed for the courthouse in lower Manhattan, where he will be taken into custody and processed on criminal charges before his first court appearance.
Protesters descend on park near courthouse ahead of Trump arraignment
A small park built on a site that was once a swampy, sewage-filled pond is ground zero for the frenzy surrounding Trump's expected surrender.
Hundreds of onlookers, protesters, journalists and a few attention-seeking politicians swarmed into the confines of Collect Pond Park, which sits across the street from the criminal courthouse where Trump was to be arraigned.
The crowd is small, by the standards of New York City protests, which routinely draw thousands. And fears that unruly mobs might force police to shut down swaths of the city proved to be unfounded, with security measures mostly disappearing within a couple of blocks.
But within the park and the surrounding sidewalks, there was plenty of chaos.
Metal barricades separated Trump supporters from anti-Trump protesters, and police stepped in to break up small skirmishes. Journalists, some of whom had taken turns waiting in line all night to reserve a coveted seat in the courtroom, pressed in on notable figures who appeared.
Whistles and jeers from anti-Trump protesters nearly drowned out remarks by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, who had come to support Trump. But she drew cheers from the pro-Trump contingent before making a fast exit as journalists jostled for position around her.
Also on hand to support Trump was Rep. George Santos, the besieged Republican congressman facing multiple investigations into lies about his biography that he told while running for office.
"I'm not here for the cameras," he insisted to reporters. "I want to support the president, just because I think this is unprecedented, and it's a bad day for democracy."
How Trump's legal team is approaching his arraignment
CBS News legal contributor Jessica Levinson joined Anne-Marie Green and Vladimir Duthiers to discuss the Trump legal team's strategy ahead of the former president's arraignment in a Manhattan courtroom:
A view of the scene at the courthouse from above
A view from above looking out onto the Collect Pond Park, west of the courthouse in Manhattan, shows the size of the crowd that has gathered ahead of Trump's arrival. The group on the north side, at the bottom of the photo, is primarily made up of anti-Trump protesters, who are separated by police barricades from pro-Trump demonstrators on the south side:
How Trump's arraignment could affect the GOP primary
CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett reports from near Trump's home at Mar-A-Lago in Florida to discuss the reaction from Trump's base to his arraignment, and the strategy his team is implementing:
Trump not expected to have mugshot taken
Trump is not expected to have his mugshot taken when he is processed later Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the plans for his arrest. Trump is also, since he will be surrounded by federal agents and police officers.
— Graham Kates and Jessica Moore
Trump fundraising email mourns the "loss of justice in America"
A Trump fundraising email with the subject line "My last email before my arrest" mourned the "loss of justice in America" ahead of his surrender.
"As I will be out of commission for the next few hours, I want to take this moment to THANK YOU for all of your support," the email said. "I was blown away by all of the donations, support, and prayers we have received. It's sad to see what's happening — not for myself, but for our country. This is not the America you and I once knew."
The fundraising email went on to say, "there is no doubt in my mind that we will prevail once again and WIN the White House in 2024," before asking people to chip in and "please make a contribution peacefully to SAVE AMERICA."
The email was sent by a joint fundraising committee supporting Trump's 2024 presidential run. Jason Miller, a top Trump aide, said Monday that the campaign had raised more than $8 million in the four days since news of the indictment broke.
Strict security ahead of Trump's arraignment
The NYPD has implemented strict security measures around both Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, where the former president stayed overnight, and the courthouse in lower Manhattan, about four miles south. "Dozens upon dozens" of Secret Service agents will be on hand to protect Trump as he makes his way to the arraignment later in the day, one law enforcement source said.
The area around the courthouse was crowded but mostly calm in the morning, with barricades around the building and a throng of media members camped out across the street. Police on the scene said they expected the crowd to be manageable given the confined nature of the space.
A smattering of Trump supporters were present at a nearby park ahead of a planned protest led by GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene several hours before Trump was due to turn himself in.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he expects the day "to go off quite well," noting that a "minimum number" of demonstrations are planned across the city.
"I think both the police and the media will outnumber any demonstrators down there for Mr. Trump or against him," Bratton told CBS News.
What time is Trump's arraignment?
The former president's first court appearance is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET., who oversaw the grand jury's investigation, is presiding over the arraignment.
In a typical arraignment in New York, the clerk reads the charges aloud, and the defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty on each count. No electronics are allowed in the courtroom, but reporters will be on hand to witness the proceedings and relay the charges when they are read.
Trump will likely be released from custody after the hearing.
Merchan oversaw the successful prosecution of two Trump Organization entities that were convicted of tax fraud in December 2022. He is also overseeing an ongoing criminal case against Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House adviser.
CBS News' Nancy Cordes and Rikki Klieman on Trump's case
CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes and CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman join "CBS Mornings" to discuss Trump's impending arraignment.
Alvin Bragg to hold post-arraignment press conference
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will be holding a press conference following Trump's arraignment, his office announced on Monday night. Bragg arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning.
The charge or charges against Trump were still sealed on Tuesday morning ahead of the arraignment. The indictment will be unsealed at the arraignment where he will be formally charged.
Journalists camped out outside courthouse
Since there will be a limited number of journalists allowed in the courtroom, reporters and other members of the news media have been lined up outside the courthouse at 100 Centre St. overnight.
There will be no video cameras allowed in the court, just five still photographers.
Read more at.
Judge rules video cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom
Judge Juan Merchan ruled Monday night that video recording of the proceedings would not be allowed. Several media organizations, including CBS News, had petitioned to allow video and photo coverage of Trump's arraignment, but New York has one of the strictest policies in the country against cameras in the courtroom, according to The Fund for Modern Courts, a nonpartisan nonprofit.
Merchan ruled that five photographers would be allowed in the courtroom to take still photos "for several minutes" before the arraignment begins. After that, "No further photography will be permitted in the courtroom." Electronic devices, including cellphones and laptops, will also not be permitted.
Cameras will be allowed in the hallways of the courthouse, Merchan ruled.
Trump's legal team wanted cameras kept out of the courtroom, saying they would "create a circus-like atmosphere," "raise unique security concerns" and are "inconsistent with President Trump's presumption of innocence."
Could Trump still become president if he's convicted of a crime?
The prospect of Trump being found guilty of a crime has raised an intriguing question about his bid to retake the White House: could he still become president if he's convicted?
The short answer, from a legal perspective, is yes, according to experts.
While charges against a former president and leading contender for a major party's presidential nomination are unprecedented, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents someone who has been charged or convicted from seeking or taking office.
"It's pretty widely accepted that the list of qualifications in the Constitution is exclusive — that is, Congress or states can't add qualifications to those listed in the Constitution," said Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa, before Trump's indictment. "It's something that really doesn't affect your ability to run as a candidate, to appear on the ballot, or to even win the election."
Trump facing at least one felony charges, source says
A person familiar with the matter told CBS News over the weekend that Trump is being charged with falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony in New York state.
The charge stems from alleged hush money paid in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence regarding an affair she claimed to have had with Trump.
In total, there are approximately 30 counts in the indictment, two sourcesto CBS News last week.