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What Trump's arraignment was like at the courthouse


Today, in the case of the people of the state of New York against Donald J. Trump, the former president of the United States was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. During his arraignment in a Manhattan courthouse, Trump entered his plea - not guilty. Outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, NPR's Jasmine Garsd spoke with people gathered both in support of the former president and in support of the indictment.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Good morning, Donald. It's time to face justice. Wake up. Rise and shine.


Sandy Radoff from Brooklyn was with a group ringing bells and chanting.

SANDY RADOFF: I'm actually celebrating for our democracy.

KELLY: She said this indictment had to happen for the sake of American democracy.

RADOFF: It would set a terrible precedent if he were allowed to get away scot-free.

FLORIDO: Nearby, 55-year-old Susan Cerbo was also celebrating.

SUSAN CERBO: Today is my birthday...


CERBO: ...And I can't find a better way than to be out supporting Donald Trump.

FLORIDO: She said she admires Trump for his perseverance.

CERBO: He just never gives up. And, like, sometimes I look, and I'm like, how does this guy get out of bed every morning? Why would anybody even want to be president anymore?

FLORIDO: Cerbo said she believes this indictment was politically motivated.

CERBO: If he wasn't running for president again to take our country back again, this would never be going on right now, in my opinion.

KELLY: All right. Let me get you back to the courthouse. That is where NPR's Ilya Marritz spent the day. He joins us now.

Hey there, Ilya.


KELLY: Hi. We got a little bit of a delay on your line, but I want you to kick off by telling me what you saw today in court.

MARRITZ: So Donald Trump entered the courtroom about 2:30 - so 15 minutes later than scheduled - which is pretty good, considering all the security needed to get into the building. I myself went through metal detectors not once, but twice. The entire building had been emptied of the judges, lawyers and defendants who usually would be there in the middle of the day. This was the only thing happening. Former President Trump entered the courtroom. To my eye, his expression was downcast, maybe unimpressed. He wore a long, bright-red tie, took a seat between his lawyers, Joseph Tacopina and Susan Necheles at the defense desk. And after about 15 minutes, after the charges had been read out and he was asked to answer, he said, not guilty. And the words I wrote in my legal pad were - gritty voice. He looked, to me, deflated.

KELLY: Huh. And explain to the nonlawyers trying to keep track of all this - we've got 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Just how serious is this?

MARRITZ: Yeah, so - well, the counts are all the same, right? So it's 34 felony counts, as you say, of falsifying business records, first degree. Prosecutors say these false business records included 11 checks used to repay Michael Cohen for buying Stormy Daniels' story and silencing her. The checks were classified as legal expenses when, in fact, they were nothing of the kind, and that's where the business records become false. But this was a catch-and-kill scheme, according to prosecutors. That's how they're describing it. And they are also talking about another woman who claimed an affair with Trump, Karen McDougal, and also a doorman who had a story about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock. Trump has denied all of these stories, but AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, allegedly played a role in silencing the doorman. Prosecutors say Trump started to make or direct these false business entries to cover up the crimes. Valentine's Day 2017 - that was right at the start of his presidency, and they extended right up until December of that year.

KELLY: All right. We are expecting to hear from the man at the center of all this, Donald Trump, later tonight. NPR will be covering that, although we will not be carrying his remarks live. We did just hear from another person at the center of this. This is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought this case. He just gave a news conference. This is the first time he's been able to speak freely about the case. What did he say?

MARRITZ: Yeah, I've seen and heard him interviewed quite a few times. I've never heard him so high-energy or, really, so prosecutorial. He said we cannot allow cases like this to slide, thereby normalizing serious criminal conduct. He also responded to some of the criticism of the anticipated indictment. People kind of knew what this indictment probably was going to look like. And he said falsifying business records is a bread-and-butter charge for white-collar cases in his office, including felony-level false business records charges, which is only possible when the false business records were entered in service of some other crime or intended crime. Here, Bragg says it was violations of both federal and state election law that would kick this up to a felony level.


ALVIN BRAGG: 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 of power changes that enduring American principle.

KELLY: All right. So first comments we heard there today from DA Bragg. Just in the minute we have left, Ilya, paint us a picture of what is next for this case, what is next with the other cases facing Donald Trump.

MARRITZ: Yeah. This chapter of history is now entered in the books. Motions from the defense and prosecution in The People of New York v. Donald Trump will come later in the summer into the fall. Prosecutors are asking for a trial date in January. The defense says later in the spring is better. But there's just an avalanche of other stuff that could come beforehand, including writer E. Jean Carroll's civil rape suit, the prosecutor in Georgia who's investigating Trump's pressure campaign on officials there to change the result of the Georgia vote in the 2020 election, and a DOJ investigation. So the real certainty here is just a ton of litigation as Donald Trump runs for president.

KELLY: That is NPR's Ilya Marritz, outside the courthouse there in Manhattan, where he has spent the day as Donald Trump showed up for his arraignment.

Thank you, Ilya.

MARRITZ: Great talking to you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ilya Marritz
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