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Defiant Donald Trump calls indictment 'fake case' during speech at Mar-a-Lago

Former president enters not guilty plea during arraignment
Former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate hours after being arraigned in New York City, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla.
Posted at 1:57 PM, Apr 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-05 08:44:33-04

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump returned home to Palm Beach County after Tuesday's arraignment in Manhattan, where he faced criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.

The former president flew back to South Florida after the arraignment, landing at Palm Beach International Airport just after 6:30 p.m.

Flanked by American flags, Trump then delivered a campaign-style speech to cheering supporters at Mar-a-Lago. At least 500 prominent supporters were invited, with some of the most pro-Trump congressional Republicans in attendance.

RELATED: Trump supporters call indictment 'witch hunt'

Donald Trump sits at defense table for arraignment in Manhattan court, April 4, 2023
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York.

RELATED: What happens now that Donald Trump has been arraigned?

Trump was defiant, referring, among other things, to his two impeachment trials during his presidency. He called the New York indictment the latest in an "onslaught of fraudulent investigations."

"This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately," Trump said.

He claimed "our country is going to hell" to which the audience applauded. He also maintained that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would have never occurred if he was in office. He also called Jack Smith, a "lunatic," the special prosecutor investigating the classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

In a social media post from his plane on his flight home from New York, Trump said that Tuesday's court hearing "was shocking to many in that they had no 'surprises,' and therefore, no case. Virtually every legal pundit has said that there is no case here. There was nothing done illegally!"

WATCH: Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago after arraignment

Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago after arraignment

TRUMP PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO 34 FELONY COUNTS OF FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS

The arraignment in Manhattan, though largely procedural in nature, was nonetheless the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced a judge in his own criminal prosecution. The indictment amounts to a remarkable reckoning for Trump after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings, unfolding against the backdrop not only of his third campaign for the White House but also against other investigations in Washington and Atlanta that might yet produce even more charges.

Trump, stone-faced and silent as he entered and exited the Manhattan courtroom, said "not guilty" in a firm voice while facing a judge who warned him to refrain from rhetoric that could inflame or cause civil unrest. All told, the ever-verbose Trump, who for weeks before Tuesday's arraignment had assailed the case against him as political persecution, uttered only about 10 words — though he did appear to glare for a period at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

RELATED: Polls show support for Trump remains strong despite indictment

The next court date is Dec. 4, though it is not clear if Trump will be required to appear.

The broad contours of the case have long been known, but the indictment contains new details about a scheme that prosecutors say began months into his presidential candidacy in 2015, as his celebrity past collided with his presidential ambitions. It centers on payoffs to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with him years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged the former president had out of of wedlock.

"It's not just about one payment. It is 34 false statements and business records that were concealing criminal conduct," Bragg told reporters, when asked how the three separate alleged payments were connected.

WATCH: Donald's Trump plane arrives back in Palm Beach Co.

Donald Trump's plane lands in Palm Beach County after New York arraignment

All 34 counts against Trump are linked to a series of checks that were written to Trump's personal lawyer and problem-solver, Michael Cohen, to reimburse him for his role in paying off Daniels. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded in various internal company documents as being for a legal retainer that prosecutors say didn't exist. Cohen testified before the grand jury and is expected to be a star prosecution witness. Nine of those monthly checks were paid out of Trump's personal accounts, but records related to them were maintained in the Trump Organization’s data system.

Prosecutors allege that the first instance of Trump directing hush money payments came in the fall of 2015, when a former Trump Tower doorman was trying to sell information about an alleged out-of-wedlock child fathered by Trump.

David Pecker, a Trump friend and the publisher of the National Enquirer, made a $30,000 payment to the doorman to acquire the exclusive rights to the story, pursuant to an agreement to protect Trump during his presidential campaign, according to the indictment. Pecker’s company later determined the doorman’s story was false, but at Cohen's urging is alleged to have enforced the doorman’s confidentiality until after Election Day.

The investigation also concerns six-figure payments made to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.

A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.