‘A felony, no matter who you are’: Bragg outlines hush money scheme case against ex-President Trump

Donald Trump arrives for court.
Photo by Dean Moses

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, now the world’s most famous prosecutor, outlined the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, and asserted that the one-time commander in chief was in serious legal trouble.

Standing before the world, the DA appeared confident with his charges and made long, sweeping expressions with his hands as he alleged that the 76-year-old Trump allegedly attempted to violate state and federal election laws. Bragg argued that Trump orchestrated what that DA called a “catch-and-kill” scheme through a series of concealed payments and false business entries designed to help cover up the former president’s past.

“Under New York State law, it is a felony to falsify these records with intent of fraud and intent to conceal another crime. That is exactly what this case is about,” Bragg said after the arraignment. “Thirty-four false statements made to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York State, no matter who you are. We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct.”

Trump appeared solemn as he glided through the 15th floor hallway of the New York State Criminal Court. The embattled 45th President — swarmed by secret service agents — briefly glanced at a small throng of media cameras posted outside the courtroom, but refused to speak on the earth-shattering announcement of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the First Degree, a class E felony, in connection to the 2016 election.

But Bragg said Tuesday that his office had no choice but to carry out the wishes of the grand jury that handed down the historic indictment — and stressed that Trump, like every other American, is not above the law.

“As this office has done time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law,” he went on.

Alvin Bragg breaks down the case against ex-president Donald Trump. Photo by Dean Moses

Bragg went on to stress that Trump not only made false statements himself, but also had others do the same, citing an example in which the former president reported paying attorney Michael Cohen for legal services in 2017 — but he never did.

“This simply was not true. It was a false statement that the defendant made month after month in 2017,” Bragg said. “For nine straight months, the defendant held documents in his hand containing this key lie, that he was paying Michael Cohen for legal services performed in 2017 and personally signed checks for payments.”

In total, Bragg said the grand jury found 34 of these documents containing this critical false statement. Bragg, and others, believe the former president falsified those documents to cover up crimes committed during the 2016 election.

Bragg on Tuesday alleged that Trump, executives at publishing company American Media Inc. (“AMI”), Cohen, and others agreed in 2015 to the “catch-and-kill scheme,” a process that involves buying and suppressing negative information to increase election outcomes.

Alvin Bragg breaks down Trump’s 34-count indictment. Photo by Dean Moses

“The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election,” Bragg said, “As part of this scheme, Donald Trump and others made three payments to people who claim to have negative information about Mr. Trump. To make these payments, they set up shell companies and they may get more false statements.”

For example, the DA alleged that AMI paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed he had information that Trump had a child out of wedlock. AMI also allegedly paid out $150,000 to a woman who said she has a sexual relationship with the former president. A third incident occurred 12 days prior to the general election in which $130,000 was wired to adult film actress, Stormy Daniels.

Upon winning the 2016 election, a series of monthly checks were paid out to Trump’s Special Counsel, according to the DA’s office — including 11 checks that were issued, nine of which were directly signed by Trump, to what the District Attorney says were illegally disguised as a payment for legal services.

Donald Trump arrives for court.Photo by Dean Moses
Trump arrives at Trump Tower. Photo by Dean Moses

“At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white-collar cases, allegations that someone lied again and again, to protect their interests and disobey the laws,” Bragg said. “As this office has done, time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law, no amount of money and no matter power, changes that.”

Bragg reiterated that Trump is charged with falsifying business records done in turn to violate New York State election laws, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote candidacy by unlawful means. These were made through the false statements that the District Attorney obtained through text messages, emails, phone records, multiple witnesses and more.

At his arraignment, the former president maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to all 34 counts.