5 things to know about Donald Trump's felony charges

Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at an event Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday after pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts. The charges stem from an investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who alleges that Trump falsified business records to conceal damaging information from 2016 election voters.

Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges – and he's already turning the charges into narrative fodder for his re-election bid.

Here's a guide to what we know.

What was Trump charged with?

The indictment unsealed Tuesday includes 34 counts of falsifying business records with "intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof." That's a Class E felony — the lowest level of felony in the state of New York.

Each check processed by the Trump Organization and disguised as a monthly payment for legal services under a retainer agreement, prosecutors say. "In truth, there was no retainer agreement," reads a statement of fact that accompanied the charges.

"Manhattan is home to the country's most significant business market," Bragg said in a press release on the charges. "We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct."

What do we know about the 'catch and kill' scheme?

Bragg's case rests on the idea that Trump regularly employed a "catch and kill" scheme to bury negative information.

Prosecutors cited three occasions in which they say Trump "orchestrated" such a scheme with executives at American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer. All three took place after Trump announced his candidacy for president in June of 2015.

The first instance came that fall, when AMI paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child that Trump had allegedly fathered outside of his marriage.

Even as the magazine concluded that the story was not true, executives agreed not to release the doorman from the agreement until after the election, prosecutors say, and the payment was "falsely characterized" in AMI's books and records.

The second instance took place in June of 2016 when Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate, alleged that she had an affair with Trump while he was married. Trump, Cohen and AMI's CEO David Pecker "had a series of discussions about who should pay off [MacDougal] to secure her silence," prosecutors say.

Ultimately, AMI paid her $150,000 "on the understanding" from Cohen that Trump or his business would reimburse the publisher. (On the advice of AMI's general counsel, that reimbursement never took place.)

The final incident was the $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016, just before the election, to suppress her allegations of an affair at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

Trump has denied all three stories about the affairs.

NPR's Washington Desk, National Desk, Ximena Bustillo and Rachel Treisman contributed reporting.

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