Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon shortly after former President Trump was indicted on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree. Trump pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
In his comments to reporters, Bragg said he felt the records were “made to cover up other crimes.”
“Why did Donald Trump repeatedly make these false statements? The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election” Bragg said.
The indictment, which was unsealed right after Trump appeared in court on Tuesday afternoon described payments made to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. Payments were also made to a doorman who falsely claimed they had information about a child Trump “allegedly fathered out of wedlock,” according to the indictment. Bragg said these payments were made as part of “a catch and kill” scheme concocted by Trump, his former attorney Michael Cohen, and executives at the tabloid magazine company American Media Inc.
While the women were not named in the indictment, Bragg confirmed they were adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has previously denied having affairs with both women. Bragg also confirmed that the false statements which resulted in the charges were related to Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen.
“As part of this scheme, Donald Trump and others made three payments to people who claimed to have negative information about Mr. Trump,” Bragg said. “To make these payments they set up shell companies and they made yet more false statements including, for example, in AMI … business records.”
For falsification of business records to constitute as a felony under New York State law, it must be done in order to cover up another crime. While the indictment described potentially criminal activity, Trump was not charged with any other crime and his attorneys latched onto this issue in brief remarks outside the courthouse.
“There were no facts in there. I mean, normally in an indictment you have alleged facts,” Joe Tacopina, one of Trump’s lawyers, said. “They said that this was a false business record entry to aid and abet another crime without saying what the other crime was.”
Bragg was asked about this issue at his press conference. He said the law “does not require” him to specify the other crime in an indictment. Bragg also pointed to alleged crimes he described in his remarks including “more additional false statements including statements that were planned to be made to tax authorities.”
“The participants’ scheme was illegal. The scheme violated New York election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means. The $130,000 wire payment exceeded the federal campaign contribution cap, and the false statements in AMI’s books violated New York law,” Bragg said. “That is why Mr. Trump made false statements about his payments to Mr. Cohen. He could not simply say that the payments were a reimbursement for Mr. Cohen’s payments to … Stormy Daniels. … To make that true statement would have been to admit a crime.”
When he took questions from reporters, Bragg was pressed about why he did not file charges for other crimes if he believed they had occurred.
“I’m not going to go into our deliberative process on what was brought,” Bragg said. “The charges that were brought were the ones that were brought. The evidence and the law is the basis for those decisions.”