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Trump indictment updates: Former president returns to Florida, speaks to supporters

SHARE Trump indictment updates: Former president returns to Florida, speaks to supporters
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court in New York.

Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York. Trump is set to appear in a New York City courtroom on charges related to falsifying business records in a hush money investigation, the first president ever to be charged with a crime.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump turned himself in to law enforcement Tuesday after a Manhattan grand jury indicted him last week in relation to allegedly paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, according to The Washington Post. He pleaded not guilty before state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan.

The indictment has been unsealed and was uploaded by The Washington Post.

Here’s the latest:

Trump returns to Florida, speaks to supporters

On Tuesday evening, Trump addressed a large crowd of supporters at Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Those in attendance included Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-GA; Donald Trump Jr.; Kimberly Guilfoyle; and Kari Lake.

“Virtually everybody that has looked at this case, including RINOs, and even hardcore Democrats, say there is no crime and that it should never have been brought,” Trump said.

“My lawyers came to me and they said, ‘There’s nothing here. They’re not even saying what you did,’” Trump said. “The criminal is the district attorney because he illegally leaked massive amounts of grand jury information.” The former president has previously claimed in a Truth Social post that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg leaked the 33 points of the indictment.

Prior to the arraignment, Trump took to Truth Social and said: “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”

In another post, Trump called the venue “very unfair” in an all-caps Truth Social message, citing Manhattan’s small Republican population as the reason. Staten Island, he said, would be a secure and fair location for the trial. Trump also claimed that Merchan is a “highly partisan judge” who was “impossible to deal with during the witch hunt trial.”

Trump was not seen wearing handcuffs while entering the courthouse. His mugshot wasn’t taken, either, but he was fingerprinted in custody and processed as a criminal defendant, according to ABC’s Will Steakin

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in New York for Manhattan Criminal Court.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in New York for Manhattan Criminal Court, where he will be booked and arraigned on charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign, Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

Corey Sipkin, Associated Press

Utah’s senators respond

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said although the former president’s “character and conduct make him unfit for office,” the Manhattan DA “has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda,” according to a statement released shortly after the court proceedings concluded.

“No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law,” he said. “The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.”

Romney also called upon “all elected leaders to discourage violence and anger in response to this situation.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said via Twitter: “I have spent my life in the law, I hold our justice system in the highest regard. This isn’t justice, solemnly and blindly carried out. This is using the law to selectively punish for political gain. It is a disgrace and will profoundly change our country for the worse.”

What happened

The arraignment began at 2:30 p.m. EDT and lasted nearly an hour. Video cameras weren’t allowed in court, but photographers were given access. The next hearing is set for Dec. 4.

Bragg in a statement alleged that 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,” according to ABC News.

“The trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws,” he added.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina questioned the case, stating that he was “surprised there were no facts in there,” per NBC News. “Normally in an indictment you’d have alleged facts,” Tacopina said.

Anti-Trump and pro-Trump protesters, alongside media, had gathered outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan prior to the proceedings.

White House reaction

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that while President Joe Biden will catch the news of the charges against Trump, that isn’t what he is focused on.

“Of course, this is playing out on many of the networks here on a daily basis for hours and hours, so obviously, he will catch part of the news when he has a moment to catch up on the news of the day, but this is not his focus for today,” Jean-Pierre said, according to CNN News.

Mitt Romney’s full statement

I believe President Trump’s character and conduct make him unfit for office. Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda. No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.

The charges and evidence will be duly considered and the outcome decided by a jury with an obligation to fulfill its responsibility with the utmost care and impartiality. The American voters will ultimately render their own judgment on the former President’s political future

Finally, it is also incumbent on all elected leaders to discourage violence and anger in response to this situation.