As expected, Trump indictment all about falsifying records – for hush money


In the end, Alvin Bragg didn’t really have anything new: the 34 felony counts in the indictment of Donald Trump, unsealed yesterday, are mainly about how he paid hush money.

Trump, who was only briefly glimpsed going in and out of the Lower Manhattan courthouse, pleaded not guilty. 

The only new twist was a reference to payoffs to a second woman – undoubtedly Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, who was paid $150,000 to keep quiet about her alleged 10-month affair with Trump in 2006, with help from the National Enquirer, as in the case of Stormy Daniels. McDougal told Anderson Cooper that Trump offered her money, which she declined, said they had real feelings for each other, and that the Enquirer didn’t provide her with the promised opportunities.  

But the heart of the case is what has been widely reported: Trump accused of falsifying business records, related to his reimbursement of former fixer Michael Cohen, who passed the $130,000 to Daniels, the porn star. Such charges are misdemeanors, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg bumped them up to felonies by tying them to a federal election law violation at the end of the 2016 campaign and also saying Cohen’s reimbursement was doubled so that he could declare the income to the IRS and not be shortchanged. The Trump team says the transactions were unrelated to the campaign and that he was trying to protect his family from embarrassment.


Those on the right are going to seize on the lack of new accusations as evidence that Bragg, an elected Democrat, has brought a politically motivated prosecution. Those on the left will emphasize the gravity, not to mention the sordid nature, of the felony charges, and keep repeating the number 34, though that’s simply the number of invoices allegedly falsified.

Prosecutors recounted one unconfirmed if salacious incident: that National Enquirer’s parent company paid $30,000 to a doorman who said he knew that Trump had a child out of wedlock. That was later determined to be untrue.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told reporters there were no surprises in the indictment and that “he’s frustrated, he’s upset.”


Bragg told reporters that Trump’s “intent” was “to conceal another crime…to hide damaging information from the voting public.” Asked why he brought the charges now, Bragg said he filed the case “when it was ready.”

Trump, at Mar-a-Lago last night, said “this fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 elections.” He said “radical left” prosecutor Bragg campaigned on getting him “at any cost” and that the D.A. was the “criminal” for illegal leaking and should resign. He also slammed Judge Juan Marchan as a “Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife.”

Trump recycled many of his greatest hits, invoking Hunter Biden’s laptop, “which exposes the Biden family as criminals,” he said without evidence. The former president also attempted to discredit the other pending investigations, calling special counsel Jack Smith a “radical left lunatic” and “bomb thrower,” and Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis “a local racist D.A.” He took no questions.


Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (L) leaves his office in New York on March 30, 2023. - Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg became the first prosecutor in US history to charge a former or sitting president when he filed his indictment against Donald Trump. The 49-year-old Democrat is no stranger to landmark moments: he is the first Black Manhattan DA, winning election to the post in November 2021. 

The indictment charges that Trump “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 58-minute arraignment – a remarkable development given that a former president is the defendant – reflected the unique nature of the case.

Prosecutors asked for a protective order so that Trump can’t make public material turned over in discovery. There was a discussion of Trump’s heated rhetoric on Truth Social, including highly personal attacks on Bragg and Judge Marchan. But the judge did not issue a gag order.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the East Palestine Fire Department in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 22, 2023

The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4, which means the trial itself could get under way just as Republicans are starting to vote in the primaries and caucuses.

We caught just brief glimpses of Trump as he walked in and out of the courthouse, in part because his entrance was obscured by the semi-permanent New York scaffolding. One of the still photographers briefly allowed in before the arraignment captured an image of the former president, flanked by his lawyers, in which he looked grim and concerned.


Trump wasn’t the only one surrendering. The three cable news networks essentially surrendered their airwaves to the Trump Spectacle. Of course, the arraignment is a story of huge national importance, but the minute-by-minute roundup–with the coverage of Trump’s black-car motorcade to the courthouse conjuring memories of O.J.’s white Bronco–was absurdly excessive.

And there was one overriding reason: ratings. MSNBC and CNN especially have missed the Trump show and its Nielsen numbers, so no one wanted to come off the story and the live pictures for fear of people clicking off.

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