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GRAND JURY INDICTMENT

Trump will plead ‘not guilty’, seek to dismiss case – defence lawyer

Former US president Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, the first former US president to be indicted, will plead not guilty when he appears in a Manhattan state court Tuesday to face criminal charges, his defence lawyer said. 

“We will very loudly and proudly say ‘not guilty’,” Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said on an appearance Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg convened the grand jury in January to investigate Trump’s role in hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. The panel on Thursday voted to indict Trump but the charges remain under seal.

Tacopina said he believes Trump faces several misdemeanour charges and signalled a defence the former president is likely to launch, including assailing Bragg’s authority to bring state charges tied to a federal election. He said the payments were previously investigated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Justice Department, which he said concluded there were “no violations”.

“Somehow, a state prosecutor has taken a a misdemeanour and tried to cobble together and make it a felony by alleging a violation of federal campaign violations which the FEC said didn’t exist,” he said.

“The team will look at every potential issue that we will be able to challenge, and we will challenge,” Tacopina said. The defence “very much anticipates a motion to dismiss because there’s no law that fits this”.

He said, however, he would not seek an immediate dismissal at the arraignment on Tuesday because “that would be showmanship and nothing more”.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the payments in 2018. The Justice Department had a standing policy that a sitting president couldn’t be charged.

Tacopina defended Trump’s trashing of New York state Judge Juan Merchan, who will preside over the case. While Trump claimed Merchan “HATES ME” on his Truth Social platform, Tacopina said there are no plans to seek Merchan’s removal from the case.

“My client has a right to have an issue with everything,” he said. “He’s been politically persecuted.”

Trump will deliver remarks on Tuesday evening after returning to his home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, according to a statement from his campaign.

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said on CNN Sunday that his client and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker both provided the Manhattan grand jury with evidence about hush money payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal before the 2016 election.

American Media, the parent company and publisher, allegedly bought McDougal’s story after she claimed to have had a past affair with Trump. Pecker testified before the grand jury twice, and was spotted leaving the courthouse on Monday.

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