Story by Oleen Ndori, Foreign Desk Editor
Former U.S President Donald Trump has defended his conduct in his first public remarks since being charged over hush money payments to a porn star, blasting the criminal prosecution as an insult to the country.
The 76-year-old former US president pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in a dramatic hearing in New York that transfixed the nation and began the countdown to the first-ever criminal trial of an American President.
The frontrunner in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination who spoke from a stage draped with American flags said prosecutors were out to get him at any cost.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America, never thought it could happen,” Trump told an audience of several hundred donors, political allies and other supporters after returning to Mar-a-Lago, his beachfront mansion in southern Florida.
Manhattan District Attorney, Mr Alvin Bragg is prosecuting Trump for cooking his company’s books to hide payments he arranged for adult film actress, Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election, to cover up an alleged sexual encounter a decade earlier.
Mr Bragg said, “We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle”.
A “statement of facts” released alongside the indictment included details of hush money payments to Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal and a former Trump Tower doorman, claiming to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock.
Daniels was paid US$130 000 by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, while McDougal got US$150 000 and the doorman US$30 000 from AMI, the publishers of supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer.
Bragg alleges that Trump and his allies “also took steps that mischaracterised, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments.”
Trump and his lawyers have accused Bragg of over-reaching in his characterisation of the alleged misconduct.