What has Donald Trump been charged with?

Former president faces 34 felony counts

Former US President Donald Trump with his defence team during his arraignment at the court in New York. AFP
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Former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday was charged with 34 felony counts for falsifying business records in New York, making him the first president to face criminal charges.

The National takes a look at what they are:

What was Trump charged with?

The indictment, unsealed after his court appearance along with a statement of facts, alleges that Mr Trump and others breached election laws through a scheme to suppress the publication of negative information about him ahead of the 2016 US election.

It contains details about payoffs to three people, with the help of Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who conducted the payoffs; and American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, which co-ordinated "catch and kill" operations.

They were adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with him years earlier.

The third was a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president had out of of wedlock.

Mr Trump denies having encounters with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.

How were the payments falsifying business records?

Manhattan District Court Attorney Alvin Bragg said the way reimbursements for Cohen were itemised in business records, and how payments were made through another company, in this case American Media, led to illegal falsehoods.

"To make these payments, they set up shell companies and they made yet more false statements," Mr Bragg said after the arraignment.

Why was it illegal to reimburse Cohen?

Cohen, who served prison time for campaign finance offences, had a part in paying Ms Daniels $130,000 on behalf of Mr Trump.

Mr Trump's reimbursement cheques to Cohen for the suppression payments falsely stated that the money was for a "retainer agreement", prosecutors said.

Why was it illegal to pay people like Stormy Daniels?

Mr Bragg says the payment breaks a New York state law that prohibits benefiting a campaign through illegal efforts.

"Less than two weeks before the presidential election, Mr Cohen wired $130,000 to Stormy Daniels' lawyer," he said.

"That payment was to hide damaging information from the voting public. 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."

How directly was Trump involved?

Mr Bragg said there was evidence that Mr Trump was part of the scheme despite claims he did not take part in any wrongdoing.

In one instance, the court's statement of facts claims Mr Trump "asked, 'So what do we got to pay for this? One fifty?'" in order to suppress a story by a woman with their American Media partner.

The court also alleges Mr Trump was constantly in communication with American Media about their "catch and kill" efforts.

The statement of facts says Mr Trump "met with the AMI CEO privately in Trump Tower in Manhattan".

"The defendant thanked the AMI CEO for handling the stories of the doorman and woman 1, and invited the AMI CEO to the inauguration".

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: April 05, 2023, 10:53 AM