WSJ News Says Trump Pleads Not Guilty in Hush-Money Case

WSJ News Says Trump Pleads Not Guilty in Hush-Money Case firstamericannews

WSJ News reported that Mr. Trump entered his plea in a Manhattan courthouse after New York authorities booked and fingerprinted him. The former president’s Secret Service detail shadowed him throughout. No former president before Mr. Trump had been charged with a crime, and not since a police officer stopped Ulysses S. Grant for speeding in his horse-drawn buggy in 1872 has a current or former president been arrested.

After his brief appearance in the 15th-floor courtroom of Justice Juan Merchan, Mr. Trump was scheduled to return to his estate in Florida, where he will give a speech in the evening.

“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!” Mr. Trump said in a post on his social media site two minutes before he entered the court building, reported WSJ News.

Mr. Trump, who is running for a second term in the White House, has called the case brought by Mr. Bragg politically motivated and has said a fair trial in the largely Democratic city of 8.5 million people would be impossible.

Mr. Trump grew up in New York and for decades ran his family business from his perch on the 26th floor. These days, Mr. Trump spends most of his time at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., and rarely visits New York, where the former Republican president is shunned more than he is embraced.

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The charges against Mr. Trump provide the first public view of a case that Mr. Bragg’s office began presenting to a grand jury in late January. The grand jury voted to indict Mr. Trump on Thursday, but criminal charges in New York’s trial courts generally remain under wraps until defendants make their initial court appearance.

The indictment may be one of the most anticipated legal documents in recent history, but much of the conduct it describes has been known for years.

In the final stretch of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, his special counsel at the Trump Organization paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter that Ms. Daniels said she had with Mr. Trump a decade earlier.

Mr. Trump, who denies the sexual encounter, later reimbursed lawyer Michael Cohen in monthly increments disguised in the Trump Organization’s books as legal fees, federal prosecutors alleged in the 2018 prosecution of Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty that year to a campaign finance violation related to his payment to Ms. Daniels and other crimes. He told a federal court and Congress that Mr. Trump directed the hush money, and Mr. Cohen is expected to be a chief witness for the Manhattan district attorney’s office if the case goes to trial.

A Romance With Ms. McDougal?

In another 2016 deal that protected Mr. Trump from bad press, his ally in the tabloid world agreed in August of that year to pay a former Playboy centerfold $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story of an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. David Pecker, the former chief executive of publisher American Media Inc., told the grand jury that he bought Karen McDougal’s story at Mr. Trump’s request to make sure that it never saw the light of day, according to people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Trump denies he had an affair with Ms. McDougal.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to coordinate with Messrs. Pecker and Trump on the McDougal deal, which federal prosecutors said amounted to an illegal contribution to Mr. Trump’s campaign. Mr. Pecker would also likely be a prosecution witness at trial.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have indicated that they will try to get the charges dismissed long before Messrs. Cohen or Pecker would be called to testify. Failing that, they will have to prepare Mr. Trump for a trial that could unfold during the height of the 2024 presidential campaign. His lawyers have said a plea deal is out of the question. WSJ News has said.

The case will remove Mr. Trump from the campaign trail for court appearances and may happen out of range of cameras and microphones. New York is an outlier among the states in banning live television and radio coverage of cases in the trial court, according to the Fund for Modern Courts, a group that advocates for court transparency in New York.

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The indictment in the hush-money case could solidify Mr. Trump’s standing among GOP voters—several recent polls show his lead in the 2024 primary widening.

But it could also serve to remind swing voters of the constant controversy that surrounds him. The former president is facing investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by a mob of his supporters to interfere with the certification of President Biden’s victory, and separate attempts to overturn his election defeat in Georgia, as well as his handling of classified documents at his Florida resort. He denies wrongdoing.

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