In an unprecedented moment in American history, former President Donald Trump was formally arrested and arraigned in court Tuesday. Charged with a total of 34 felony charges, the indictment handed down by a Manhattan grand jury represents a shocking turn of events in the post-presidential activities of Trump.
The charges, handed down by a Manhattan grand jury, center on alleged hush money payments and the subsequent falsification of business records by Trump. Specifically, the full indictment accuses Trump of falsifying records in order to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by preventing the release of potentially damaging stories involving alleged affairs with pornographic actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, at a press conference following Trump’s arraignment, accused Trump of a “catch-and-kill” scheme to hide stories that could harm his candidacy from the voting public.
“The participant scheme was illegal,” Bragg said of the charges. “The scheme violated New York election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.”
Trump, remaining unusually somber and reserved, entered a not guilty plea while avoiding any comments to the press during the proceedings. After being arraigned, Trump returned to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, delivering a primetime speech rife with grievances and attacks on the justice system.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America. This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately,” Trump levied during the campaign-style speech. He also slammed Bragg and the case’s presiding judge, Juan Merchan, as politically biased, and railed against the numerous investigations of his presidential and post-presidential activities.
Alongside this indictment, there are other investigations looming over Trump. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is weighing potential charges against Trump for alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election, centering on his pressure of state officials to overturn the state’s election results.
On the federal level, the Department of Justice is continuing to investigate Trump’s post-election conduct, with Special Council Jack Smith probing Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his role in the January 6 United States Capitol attack.
Reactions across the political spectrum have been varied and often cautious. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement, “Mr. Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law.”
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) also put out a statement following this news.
“Based on the merits, including sworn testimony from witnesses, a New York grand jury determined the evidence against Donald Trump warranted a criminal indictment,” Reed said. “Now that the indictment has been unsealed and Trump has been arraigned, a criminal case may proceed.”
Reed added, “The former President will have his day in court. He will be judged fairly and impartially, just like any other criminal defendant. The burden of proof is squarely on the prosecution. Facts and evidence will determine the outcome.”
On the Republican side, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote on Twitter that Bragg “is attempting to interfere in our democratic process” and “will be held accountable by Congress.”
A conviction would not prevent Trump from being a candidate in a federal election.