The Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Braggsaid Tuesday that former President Donald Trump, charged today for 34 crimes of falsification of commercial recordsorchestrated an illegal scheme that issued three payments to people with damaging information about him ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Trump appeared before the judge today Juan Merchanfollowed each movement by cameras that captured his serious gesture, to find out about charges that had remained sealed since Thursday, when a grand jury considered that there was enough evidence and arguments in the case to charge the ex-president.
Bragg summarized the accusations in a press conference after that court hearing, from which only leaked Merchan’s warning to Trump about his inflammatory rhetoric on social mediaand after which the businessman boarded his private plane to his Florida mansion, where he wrote on his Truth social network that he had done nothing illegal.
Trump, along with publisher American Media Incorporated (AMI) and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen“agreed in 2015 to execute a plot of ‘catch and kill’which is a plot to buy and suppress negative information, to improve Trump’s chances of winning the election,” Bragg explained.
That plot, he denounced, included criminal activities such as the establishment of shell companies and the production of false documents, and compared it to a “conspiracy to promote an (electoral) candidacy by illegal means.”
He added that “They made three payments to people who claimed to have negative information” about Trump, something that was surprising, since it was known that the bulk of the investigation revolved around the porn actress stormy danielsand a second payment had recently been leaked to another woman, the model Karen McDougal.
Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 two weeks before the 2016 election through “a shell company,” according to what the former lawyer revealed after pleading guilty and serving time, an amount that “exceeds the contribution limit to federal campaigns,” Bragg said.
Subsequently, Trump issued eleven checks to Cohen “for fraudulent purposes”, which were processed by his Organization and “disguised as payments for legal services” provided by the lawyer in 2017 but which were “fictitious”.
Had he said he was reimbursing Cohen for the 2016 Daniels payment, which exceeded campaign finance limits, Trump would have “admitted a crime,” he argued.
The second woman in the case, McDougal, was paid $150,000 for her silence about an alleged sexual relationship with the then-candidate, similar to what happened with Daniels.
The third payment that was not known, and which dates back to 2015, as specified by the Prosecutor’s Office in a press release, was made by AMI, which delivered $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman “who claimed to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock.”
The prosecutor noted that Trump went “to great lengths to conceal his conduct,” leading to dozens of false entries in his company’s business records to “conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws.”
After winning the election, the president repaid Cohen several monthly checks, collected in the indictment, from a fund he created to hold Trump Organization assets while he was in the White House, and later from his personal bank account.
The prosecutor, who has been the target of hundreds of threats as a result of the investigation into irregular payments and also a target of Trump himself and his followers, who accuse him of “political persecution” and “illegal interference”, today defended his 24-year career years and the “exhaustive” work of his office and the grand jury.
Since taking office more than a year ago, he said his office has filed a hundred charges similar to today’s, describing New York state as “the business capital of the world,” claiming it sits on “the integrity of the market, which are the true and correct accounting records”.
According to experts, the 34 counts of forgery of business documents, which in the state of New York are a misdemeanor punishable cwith less than 1 year in prison, they are aggravated by being linked to the promotion or concealment of another crime, in this case related to the elections, which entails up to 4 years.
However, this is a case without legal precedent and Trump is expected to follow his usual strategy in litigation, which consists of procrastinate as long as possibleso the only foreseeable thing will be the slowness in the first judicial process against a US president or former president.