Takeaways from the charges against former president Donald Trump
Apr 4, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: 5:42 pm
(CNN) — The historic indictment and related court documents against former President Donald Trump have been unsealed.
The criminal charges stem from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into hush money payments, made during the 2016 presidential campaign, to women who claimed they had extramarital affairs with Trump, which he denies.
Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election,” according to the charging documents.
Each criminal charge Trump is facing relates to a specific entry among the business records of the Trump Organization.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Here’s a running breakdown of the charges and evidence presented against Trump in the indictment and court documents:
Prosecutors point to former President Trump’s “unlawful” election influence scheme as backing for felony charges
Bragg is not charging Trump with a violation of election law or a conspiracy related to that alleged campaign-related conduct. However, falsifying business records — the charge Trump faces 34 counts of — is only a felony if the records were falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.
The indictment says for all 34 counts that Trump had the “intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”
Bragg alleged in his press conference Tuesday that the business records were falsified in 2017 with the intent of concealing criminal conduct connected to the 2016 campaign. He referenced a New York state law that makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.
The statement of facts cautions in a footnote that it “does not contain all facts relevant to the charged conduct.”
Trump and Cohen worked out repayment deal in the Oval Office, prosecutors say
According to the charging documents, the editor-in-chief and the CEO of the National Enquirer approached then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen shortly after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public in October 2016, and told Cohen that adult film actress Stormy Daniels was claiming she had an affair with Trump.
The charging documents say Cohen negotiated a hush-money payment with Daniels to “secure [Daniels’] silence and prevent disclosure of the damaging information in the final weeks before the presidential election.”
Trump allegedly hid the reimbursement payments to Cohen by marking monthly checks for “legal services,” according to the statement of facts, in a deal the two worked out in the Oval Office.
Trump personally signed checks reimbursing Cohen, prosecutors allege, including $130,000 for Daniels in exchange for her signature on a non-disclosure agreement.
He also allegedly agreed to pay Cohen $35,000 monthly for one year, prosecutors allege.
“In early February 2017, the Defendant and Lawyer A met in the Oval Office at the White House and confirmed this repayment arrangement,” the statement of facts says.
Many of these specific facts have been public for years. Cohen publicly revealed one of the $35,000 checks while testifying to Congress in 2019 in an effort to corroborate his story that Trump played a role in coordinating and orchestrating the payment to Daniels.
Some payments central to Trump’s charges came directly from his bank account
Prosecutors say checks were cut monthly — including some coming directly from Trump’s bank account — to Cohen. They allege these were disguised as attorney payments when they were not.
“Each check was processed by the Trump Organization, and each check was disguised as a payment for legal services rendered in a given month of 2017 pursuant to a retainer agreement,” prosecutors wrote in the statement of facts accompanying the indictment.
“The payment records, kept and maintained by the Trump Organization, were false New York business records. In truth, there was no retainer agreement, and Lawyer A was not being paid for legal services rendered in 2017,” it adds, referring to Cohen.
Participants in the alleged scheme knew payoffs were unlawful, prosecutors say
According to the statement of facts, participants in the alleged illegal hush-money scheme, including Cohen, admitted payoffs to the two women were unlawful.
In late 2018, American Media, Inc. (AMI), the publisher of the National Enquirer, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York’s US Attorney’s office relating to paying Karen McDougal, another woman who allegedly had an affair with Trump — which he denies — for her story about Trump, the statement of facts says.
AMI told authorities they never intended to publish McDougal’s story and made the payment to McDougal so that she “did not publicize damaging allegations” about Trump “before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election,” the statement of facts says.
The statement of facts also cites Cohen’s federal guilty plea, which said Cohen worked at the direction of Trump to arrange payment for the two women, McDougal and Daniels, to stop stories that could be harmful to Trump.