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What It Was Like Inside the Courtroom During Trump’s Arraignment
Here are some of the most important moments from the hearing where criminal charges against Donald Trump were unveiled.The scene on Tuesday for the arraignment of former President Donald J. Trump, seated third from right.Credit...Pool photo by Andrew KellyFormer President Donald J. Trump sat quietly in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday as prosecutors described the

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Here are some of the most important moments from the hearing where criminal charges against Donald Trump were unveiled.

Sudan crisis Comet World News Former President Donald J. Trump was seated third from the right in a courtroom in Manhattan on Tuesday for his arraignment on criminal charges.
The scene on Tuesday for the arraignment of former President Donald J. Trump, seated third from right.Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Kelly

Former President Donald J. Trump sat quietly in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday as prosecutors described the accusations against him. The proceeding marked his first experience as a criminal defendant.

A 32-page transcript of the hearing offers only a hint of the dramatic implications of the arraignment and the lengthy legal process to come. It was one of the most-anticipated court proceedings in the world. And yet, it was seen firsthand only by the few dozen people who were present in the courtroom where the charges against Mr. Trump were unveiled.

Here are some of the most important moments from the arraignment:

THE COURT: Let’s arraign Mr. Trump.

THE CLERK: Donald J. Trump, the grand jury of New York County has filed indictment 71543 of 2023 charging you with the crimes of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.

How do you plead to this indictment, guilty or not guilty?

DEFENDANT MR. TRUMP: Not guilty.

The shades were down in the courtroom when Mr. Trump entered around 2:30 p.m., wearing a navy suit, a red tie and a blank expression. Armed court officers flanked him on both sides as he walked down the aisle toward the front. Photographers were briefly allowed to enter the jury box to take his picture, and he turned and stared at the cameras until their operators were made to leave.

Mr. Trump’s arraignment did not begin immediately after he came in. He was compelled to wait about 10 minutes, seated silently at the defense table, as a lawyer representing media organizations requested that journalists be granted more access to the proceeding. Mr. Trump visibly scoffed when that lawyer asserted that professional journalists could be trusted.

When that lawyer was finished speaking, the judge, Juan M. Merchan, referred to in the transcript as “The Court,” called for Mr. Trump to be arraigned. The former president was read the charges against him — 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. In the hushed courtroom, Mr. Trump leaned forward and, speaking into the microphone at the defense table, said that he was not guilty.

MR. CONROY: The defendant, Donald J. Trump, falsified New York business records in order to conceal an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws.

Chris Conroy, a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, then stood up and began to detail the charges. They stem from a hush-money payment that Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, in the run-up to the 2016 election. Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen after he was elected. Prosecutors are accusing Mr. Trump of orchestrating the creation of false business records related to the reimbursements.

Falsifying business records is only a felony in New York State when it is committed with the intent to “commit or conceal” another crime. In saying that Mr. Trump had falsified records “to conceal an illegal conspiracy,” Mr. Conroy offered a potential preview of the office’s broader case against Mr. Trump.

Members of the defense team were handed copies of the indictment. Mr. Trump passed a copy to one of his lawyers, Joseph Tacopina. The former president was the only person at the defense table not to accept a copy.

An extraordinary moment came when Mr. Conroy began to reference Mr. Trump’s recent social media posts. The former president promised that “death and destruction” would follow were he to be charged and posted racist language and threatening images directed at the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg.

MR. CONROY: We have significant concern about the potential danger this kind of rhetoric poses to our city, to potential jurors and witnesses, and to the judicial process.

Mr. Conroy then passed out printed copies of Mr. Trump’s posts to the judge and defense team. Mr. Trump passed his copy to Mr. Tacopina, but a minute later requested it back, beckoning with his right hand. Another of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, objected strongly to Mr. Conroy’s comments about the social media posts.

MR. BLANCHE: It is true that President Trump has responded, and responded forcefully. It is true that as part of that response, he’s absolutely frustrated, upset, and believes that there is a grave injustice happening with him being in this courtroom today.

Mr. Blanche asserted that Mr. Trump “has rights, he’s allowed to speak publicly.”

That appeared to prompt Justice Merchan, who spoke calmly and soberly, to respond that he had no immediate intention of placing a “gag order” on Mr. Trump, counter to concerns expressed recently by the former president’s legal team. Prosecutors have not requested a gag order.

THE COURT: Certainly, the court would not impose a gag order at this time even if it were requested.

Such restraints are the most serious and least intolerable on First Amendment rights. That does apply doubly to Mr. Trump, because he is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. So, those First Amendment rights are critically important, obviously.

But Justice Merchan, a judge in the State Supreme Court since 2009, did warn the defense to speak to Mr. Trump “and anybody else you need to, and remind them to please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest.”

MS. MCCAW: Defendant may not provide the materials he receives through the discovery process to any third party, including the press, and he may not post them to social media.

As Mr. Trump continued to sit in silence, Catherine McCaw, another prosecutor, told the judge that her team was working with Mr. Trump’s lawyers to draft a protective order, a document that would place certain constraints on Mr. Trump.

One of those constraints, she said, would bar the former president from posting certain case material on social media, or from sharing it with reporters. Were Mr. Trump to violate any constraints that are in place, Justice Merchan would decide whether and how to sanction him.

As his arraignment went on, Mr. Trump increasingly fidgeted. He wove and unwove his fingers repeatedly. He crossed and uncrossed his arms. He knocked his knuckles on the hardwood table. Once, he puffed out his cheeks in a sigh.

Finally, more than a half-hour after he entered his plea, he spoke again — after being prompted by his lawyers — but only to respond to Justice Merchan when the judge informed the former president about his right to be present at proceedings — and the ways that right could be forfeited.

THE COURT: If you become disruptive to such a degree that it affects my ability to preside over this case and my ability to ensure that the case is treated the way it needs to be treated for both sides, I do have the authority to remove you from the courtroom and continue in your absence, do you understand that?

DEFENDANT MR. TRUMP: I do.

THE COURT: I expect all other defendants to appear in court, even high-profile defendants.

Given that Mr. Trump was charged with nonviolent crimes, prosecutors were barred from even requesting that he be put in jail. As Justice Merchan prepared to release the former president, Mr. Blanche suggested that Mr. Trump might not appear at his next court date, scheduled for Dec. 4. When asked for his reasoning, Mr. Blanche cited “the incredible expense and effort and security issues” that attended the arraignment.

The judge acknowledged that it had been a huge undertaking for everyone involved. But he noted that December was “quite a ways out.” Finally, he noted that “in the interest of transparency and assuring the rules of law evenhandedly,” he was going to disagree with Mr. Blanche. The implication: As much as possible, the judge intends to treat Mr. Trump like any other defendant.

When the arraignment adjourned around 3:25 p.m., Mr. Trump was the slowest person at the defense table to stand up. He smoothed the lapels of his blue suit jacket, neatened a stack of paper in front of him and walked out of the courtroom.

Hurubie Meko, Kate Christobek and Jason Silverstein contributed reporting.