Former US President Donald Trump charged with various criminal offences, pleads not guilty

The former US president Donald Trump has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former US president to face a criminal trial.

Appearing in a Manhattan court, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty after his formal arrest earlier on Tuesday.

The charges stem from an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump, 76, has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

The BBC is currently reading through the charging sheet and will publish real-time analysis to our live page.

The former president said nothing as he entered the courtroom for his arraignment, before Judge Juan Manuel Merchan.

The case hinges on an alleged $130,000 (£105,000) payment made by his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

The payment, which Mr Cohen said he made at the direction of then-candidate Mr Trump, was allegedly meant to keep Ms Daniels quiet about an affair between her and Mr Trump. Mr Trump has denied having any sexual encounters with Ms Daniels.

Hush money agreements are not illegal, but Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating whether business records were falsified in relation to the payment.

The odds of a conviction are so far unclear but the charges against Mr Trump – who has already launched his third bid for the White House – have pulled the country into unchartered political territory.

While a criminal conviction would not prevent Mr Trump from either running for president or from re-claiming the Oval Office, the prolonged legal fight may be a major distraction for the Republican front-runner, and will add a new layer of turmoil to his party’s primary.

“Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME,” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on the way court. “Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

Hundreds of Mr Trump’s supporters congregated at a park across from the courthouse on Tuesday morning, galvanised by the charges filed against him. They were joined by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a right-wing Republican from Georgia who derided the Democratic party as “communists” and “failures”.

“Every single American should be concerned,” Ms Greene said of Mr Trump’s indictment. Ms Greene, 48, has repeatedly promoted the false claim that Mr Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Her appearance was met by outrage from counter-protesters, who had been separated by Trump supporters by police. The group of anti-Trump protesters shouted and jeered, at times drowning her speech out entirely.

“Go back to Georgia!” one woman shouted.

Mr Trump is expected to return to his Florida home Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening, where he plans to deliver remarks at 20:15 local time.

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