5 Apr 2023

Trump prosecution: The charges against the former president and what happens next

10:34 am on 5 April 2023
Former US president Donald Trump leaves the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 4, 2023. - Former US President Donald Trump is to be booked, fingerprinted, and will have a mugshot taken at a Manhattan courthouse on the afternoon of April 4, 2023, before appearing before a judge as the first ever American president to face criminal charges. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

Donald Trump leaves court after a hearing lasting almost an hour in which he pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges of falsifying business records. Photo: AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

Former US President Donald Trump has been arrested and charged with 34 felony counts related to business fraud.

The man who spent four years in the White House was brought before a judge on Tuesday (local time) and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The case comes as he campaigns to become president again, in the 2024 election.

Here's what it's all about.

What is the latest news?

Trump went to court where he was arrested, and charged with 34 felony counts of fraud, related to multiple payoffs to two women, adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extra-marital sexual encounters with him.

Read the full charges in New York state Supreme Court documents.

The indictment includes an allegation of hush money paid to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president fathered out of wedlock.

The Manhattan district attorney cited a $130,000 payment made to buy the silence Daniels.

The hush money was paid 12 days before the 2016 election that Trump won against Hillary Clinton.

A jury in New York last week voted to indict Trump, which means they believed there was enough evidence to bring criminal charges against him.

A new lawyer, Todd Blanche, joined Trump's legal team ahead of his arraignment.

The former president was released by the court and flew back to his Mar-a-Lago home where he will address supporters on Tuesday evening.

What is Trump accused of?

Daniels says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which he has always denied.

In 2016 she tried to sell her account of what happened to the media. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet.

Hush money is not illegal but what has got Trump into trouble is how Cohen's reimbursement was recorded in his accounts. Trump is accused of falsifying his business records in the first degree by saying the payment was for legal fees.

The district attorney alleged on Tuesday this was done "to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election".

The investigation is also looking into a $150,000 pay-off made on Trump's behalf by the National Enquirer tabloid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep quiet about an alleged affair with him.

There will now be a trial where Trump will make his case, but we do not know when that will be.

The next in-person court hearing for Trump was set for 4 December in New York.

He has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated.

Is Trump going to jail if found guilty?

The most likely outcome at the end of this legal process is a fine, but there is also a chance he could be sent to prison.

Falsifying business records is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanour.

But the charges against Trump are all the lowest category of felony in New York, which carries a maximum prison sentence of four years per count.

Legal experts tell the BBC, however, that time behind bars is unlikely.

Can Trump still run for president?

Yes, there is nothing in the US constitution to prevent Trump from continuing his election campaign now he is being charged.

Even if he was imprisoned, he could theoretically still run for president and win an election.

But there are practical considerations.

A prolonged legal fight and a trial will be a major diversion from a presidential campaign - in time and energy, and the scheduling of election rallies.

Wasn't Trump investigated before?

Yes. He faced two major inquiries by Congress when he was president, called impeachments, but was acquitted by the US Senate both times.

Now he has left office he can no longer be impeached but instead can be indicted and faces a number of criminal investigations.

They are continuing and we will hear more about them in the months ahead.


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