Tuesday 4 April 2023 will go down as an unprecedented and historic day for America: the day former President Donald Trump was arrested and arraigned on criminal charges.
Mr Trump has been under investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office over hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels.
The money was allegedly used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump. Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.
Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
On Thursday 30 March, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Mr Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records over the hush money payments. At his arraignement on Tuesday 4 April, he pled not guilty.
Hardcore loyalists gather for protest
While Mr Trump spent his last morning before becoming a defendant in a criminal case holed up at Trump Tower, his staunch ally and MAGA favourite Marjorie Taylor Greene prepared to lead protests against his indictment through the city of New York against what she has described as the “political persecution” of the former president.
In the event, several dozen Trump loyalists joined reporters and camera crews from across the world in a small park near the courthouse, creating a circus-like scene. A group of men chanted “two genders” and “male and female”, while a banner reading “TRUMP OR DEATH” waved overhead. One man carried a noose, attached to the placard reading “what you need to deal with the liberal biased media”.
“I want him to know that we’ve got his back, and my support is unwavering and stronger than ever, and I will gladly take a bullet if I have to,” a protester named Edward X Young, wearing a green “Keep America Great” hat, told The Independent.
They were met by about half their number of counterprotesters, who held their own “emergency noise demo” to drown out Ms Taylor Greene’s “hate speech”. They rolled out a massive sheet reading “TRUMP LIES ALL THE TIME”, while the crowd blew whistles, banged on tambourines and blasted loud music across a row of barricades separating them from pro-Trump demonstrators.
In between them stood numerous officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD), enforcing a warning from city mayor Eric Adams that anyone “anyone caught participating in any act of violence” would be swiftly arrested.
“Though we have no specific threats, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known to spread misinformation and hate speech – she's stated she's coming to town. While you're in town, be on your best behavior,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
Trump arrives in court
Mr Trump reportedly left Trump Tower – the home of the Trump Organization – on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan sometime after 11am, travelling by motorcade to Manhattan Criminal Court in downtown New York.
The former president was be flanked by Secret Service members for his protection and the roads leading to the courthouse were closed for the journey. Security was also ramped up across the city.
On arrival at the court, he first entered Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office – which adjoins the courthouse – where he was officially arrested on criminal charges for the first time.
Like all defendants in criminal cases, he was processed – with his fingerprints taken and details recorded. However, he was not handcuffed or put in a jail cell, and did not have his mugshot taken. (This did not stop his campaign from putting a fake mugshot on a commemorative T-shirt in a canny fundraising effort.)
Then it was time for Mr Trump’s arraignment before New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan. Photographs showed a glum-looking tycoon flanked by numerous NYPD officers as he entered the court, while courtroom artists got the rare opportunity to depict his distinctive visage scowling amid lawyers and guards.
The charges were 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over his part in the hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, which prosecutors alleged were part of a wide-ranging and illegla scheme to swing the vote in his favour.
The court hearing itself was brief, and was not broadcast on TV after Judge Merchan made a last-minute ruling to ban video cameras from the courtroom.
Trump rails against charges in primetime address
Of course Mr Trump would not allow the airwaves to go uncontested, and flew straight back to Florida for a primetime address at 8.15pm ET from his Mar-a-Lago estate.
During the speech, he railed against the charges, Mr Bragg and Judge Merchan.
“The criminal is the district attorney because he illegally leaked massive amounts of grand jury information,” he said to loud applause.
“For which he should be prosecuted, or at a minimum he should resign.”
He also targeted Mr Bragg’s wife and Judge Merchan, describing him as the “Trump hating-judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter work for Kamala Harris” – despite the fact the judge has only just warned him to stop making threatening posts on social media that could inflame tensions or incite violence.
This article was originally published on Tuesday 4 April 2023 and has been updated with new details of events as they happened.
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