Former President Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records under New York law, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
The charges are connected to Trump’s hush money payment made shortly before the 2016 election to cover up an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
New York prosecutors alleged that Trump illegally disguised reimbursements related to the Daniels hush money payment as a monthly retainer for legal services, leading to 34 false entries in New York business records.
Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday. His attorneys said they will seek to have the charges dismissed.
New York law states that falsifying business records rises to a felony when an individual’s “intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) said in a statement that Trump “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 charge requires, as I specify, criminal conduct that was concealed. One of the concealed crimes we allege is New York state election law,” Bragg told reporters Tuesday.
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to making the hush money payment under Trump’s direction “for the principal purpose” of influencing the 2016 election, a federal violation of campaign finance law.
Cohen cooperated with New York prosecutors prior to Trump’s indictment.
The felony charges carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison for each count, but legal experts say that first-time offenders typically don’t see any jail time.
Bragg said Tuesday that Trump violated “one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws.” Bragg’s office outlined the timeline of its case in legal documents released to the media.
“From August 2015 to December 2017, the Defendant 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,” the case’s statement of facts reads.
“In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York,” it continues. “The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme.”
Trump attorney Todd Blanche criticized the charges Tuesday, calling the indictment a “political prosecution.”
“If this man’s name was not Donald J. Trump, there is no scenario we’d be here today,” he told reporters.
— Updated 8:08 p.m.