Former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to allegations of corporate fraud related to his alleged payment, during the 2016 presidential campaign, for the silence of women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs.

The Republican, who has already declared he intends to run for president again, is now the first former US president to become a defendant on a criminal charge. Trump is still the target of investigations for possession of confidential government documents after the end of his term and for involvement in an attempted coup d’état after losing the election to Joe Biden.

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The crime of business fraud is punishable by up to 4 years in prison. According to the website Politico, the prosecution believes that the trial could be set for January 2024. Trump’s legal team, however, said that the deadline may be too ambitious, making it more reasonable to think of a trial date in the fall of 2024 (between the months September and November). The US presidential election is scheduled for November 5, 2024.

Prosecutor Chris Conroy claimed at the hearing that Trump’s alleged bribery scheme was an “illegal plan to identify and suppress negative information”. The prosecutor also read recent publications by the former president on social networks, which he classified as “threatening”, including a photo of Trump holding a baseball bat with a photo of one of the prosecutors in the case.

The investigation points out that Michael Cohen, then a lawyer for presidential candidate Trump, would have bought the silence of two women who claim to have had affairs with the republican. After initially denying any wrongdoing, Cohen later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. The lawyer claims that Trump instructed him to pay the women and then, while he was president, reimbursed him through the Trump Organization in a series of transfers that were falsely recorded as legal expenses.

Editing: Nicolau Soares


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