Donald J. Trump became the first former president of the U.S. to be criminally indicted on April 4. He has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. (AP Photo)

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Former U.S. President Donald J. Trump, 76, became the first former president to face criminal charges in the United States on April 4. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg led the efforts to get a grand jury to deliver a 34-count indictment on March 30. The indictment includes charges of falsifying business records in the first degree.

The former president was arraigned on April 4.

David Kwok, a political professor for the University of Houston, spoke to the AFRO about what the procedure means. 

“This is his first chance to confront the formal legal process initiated against him directly,” said Kwok. “Arraignment is perhaps more important in what’s called non-white-collar cases.”

Trump’s case is deemed a white-collar case.

Bragg alleges that Trump used his company, American Media Inc. (AMI), and a team of lawyers to wire $130,000 to Michael Cohen, a former attorney, to pay for the silence of an adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, who was alleging an affair 12 days before the presidential general election in 2016. 

The indictment does not provide notable details on most of the 34 charges, though the “statement of facts” claims several of those listed transactions are false entries used to execute the $130,000 payment. 

It further claims Trump, after the 2016 election, reimbursed Cohen for the illegal payment through monthly checks from the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, a legal entity that held the Trump Organization’s assets after Trump became president, and from Trump’s personal bank account. Each check was allegedly disguised as a legal services payment.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also claims Trump paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who allegedly had a story about a child the former president conceived out of wedlock. Bragg also alleges that there was a $150,000 payment to another woman who said she had an intimate relationship with Trump, aside from Daniels.

“The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” said Bragg, in a statement released immediately after the arraignment. “Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.”

The DA’s office deemed Trump’s alleged actions a “catch and kill” scheme to identify, purchase and bury negative information about him in efforts to boost his electoral prospects ahead of the presidential elections from August 2015 to December 2017. 

Trump pleaded not guilty at the arraignment, according to the Associated Press.

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.

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