Donald Trump, who surrendered to the Manhattan district attorney’s office earlier today, has been arraigned on charges related to the hush money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election. He was charged with a whopping 34 felony counts of falsifying business records—in the same New York courtroom where the Trump Organization was found guilty of tax fraud last year—and entered a plea of not guilty.
As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted, “Trump looked very unhappy as he walked into the courtroom,” which is unsurprising given he was there to be arraigned on criminal charges after a lifetime of escaping any and all responsibility for his actions.
If convicted of all 34 felonies, the former president could go to prison for up to 136 years.
To his apparent surprise, Trump was indicted last week, making him the first president in US history to be charged with a crime after leaving office. He departed Florida for New York around noon on Monday, and spent the night at his triplex in Trump Tower, the interior design of which might be described as “If Louis XIV threw up all over the place. The walls, the floors, the couches, everywhere.” (In related news, Trump’s lies about said triplex were cited by New York attorney general Letitia James in her $250 million fraud suit against the ex-president, his company, and his three eldest children.) Rolling Stone reported on Monday that Trump was “offered a chance to surrender quietly and be arraigned over Zoom” but instead “opted for a midday, high-profile booking at the Manhattan courthouse…. ‘He wanted a perp walk, he wanted daylight hours,’” a law enforcement official told the outlet. Said a person close to Trump’s legal team: “It’s kind of a Jesus Christ thing. He is saying ‘I’m absorbing all this pain from all around from everywhere so you don’t have to’.”
According to multiple sources who spoke to CNN, the former president has hired a new attorney to serve as his lead counsel. That lawyer is Todd Blanche, who previously represented Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was found guilty of eight felonies in one trial and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice in another. (He was later pardoned by Trump.)
As the outlet noted, Susan Necheles and Joe Tacopina will remain on Trump’s legal team, though Blanche’s hiring “has been seen by some inside Trump’s orbit as a sidelining of Tacopina, who up until this point has been one of the most forward-facing attorney’s dealing with Trump’s defense.” Last month, the internet uncovered footage of Tacopina saying in a 2018 TV interview, before he represented Trump, that the Daniels hush money payment was against the law; that it was potentially a “campaign finance issue”; and that the story that Michael Cohen acted in his own capacity when he paid Daniels $130,000 was BS. “That doesn’t make sense, that a lawyer took out a home equity loan with his own money, paid somebody that he didn’t even know on behalf of a client who, by the way, had the wherewithal and the money to afford $130,000,” Tacopina said, adding: “It’s an illegal agreement.”
In a separate appearance that same year, Tacopina reiterated that the deal was “illegal.”
Trump, whose campaign has raised $7 million over the last several days, is expected to speak at Mar-a-Lago at 8:15 p.m. tonight. It’s not exactly clear what he’ll say, but in the hours and days since the news of his indictment broke, he’s decried the hush money probe as a “witch hunt,” a “political persecution,” and evidence that the US is a “THIRD WORLD COUNTRY.” He’s also continued his attacks on Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg; leveled new offensives against the judge presiding over his case; and asked “Where’s Hunter,” i.e. Joe Biden’s son—an obsession of both the GOP and 45th president, which led to the latter’s first impeachment. So he’ll presumably hit on at least some of the aforementioned, in addition to telling his followers “they’re coming after you.” Hopefully, he won’t suggest that people should engage in violence on his behalf, though that may be too much to ask.
Last week, after the news of the indictment broke, Donald Trump Jr. boldly claimed: “This is like Communist-level shit. This is stuff that would make Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot—it would make them blush.”
In significantly more muted remarks, Ivanka Trump—who wants nothing to do with any of this because it’s bad for her brand—said: “I love my father, and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both. I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.” Tiffany Trump does not appear to have issued a comment. Eric’s remarks have fallen somewhere between those of his elder siblings.
As for the ex-president’s wife, Melania Trump, reportedly had no sympathy for her husband prior to the indictment. It’s not clear if she still feels the same way, but given that she’s still said to be pissed about Trump’s alleged affair with Daniels—which he denies—she just might.
This article has been updated.