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Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at the Manhattan Criminal Court for his arraignment hearing on April 04, 2023 in New York, New York. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

NEW YORK (LifeSiteNews) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to more than 30 felony charges after he was placed under arrest and arraigned in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. Despite cooperating with the proceedings, Trump has vowed to fight the prosecution, which he said represents “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.”

Before leaving Trump Tower, Trump took to Truth Social to express disbelief about his imminent arrest in connection to alleged hush money payments made to a pornography “actress” and a Playboy model during his 2016 presidential campaign.

“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse,” he said. “Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”

Outside Trump Tower, the former president pumped his fist and waved to onlookers before leaving for the courthouse.

Trump arrived at the Manhattan courthouse in a motorcade and submitted to the arraignment after traveling from his home in Florida to Trump Tower in New York on Monday to surrender himself to authorities. 

In the courtroom before Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony charges, which were brought against him by a progressive George Soros-backed district attorney.

Judge Merchan authorized a “limited number” of photographers to enter the courthouse, but rejected a request to permit photos or live video while court was in session.

READ: Trump to appear in court Tuesday, will plead ‘not guilty’ to Soros-backed DA charges

Outside the courthouse, crowds of journalists, Trump-supporters, and anti-Trump protesters gathered, closely watched by a heavy law enforcement presence. Reports indicate that the majority of those present outside the courthouse are members of the media.

Photo courtesy of Tom Lapolla

The first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, reports ahead of the arraignment indicated Trump would be granted special treatment from prosecutors, who had consulted with Trump’s Secret Service detail and court officials and determined they would not subject the forty-fifth president to being handcuffed, jailed, or having a mugshot taken.

Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene led Trump-supporters in a protest against what many Republicans have argued is an unjust political persecution against the former president.

Trump’s much-anticipated arrest came after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the embattled former president in relation to alleged falsification of business records following reputed payouts to alleged hush money payments made to pornography “actress” Stephanie Clifford, known as “Stormy Daniels,” during his 2016 presidential campaign.

READ: ​​Donald Trump indicted by Manhattan Grand Jury

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen gave Clifford $130,000 during the campaign to keep quiet about an affair she and Trump allegedly had a decade prior. Trump has denied that the affair ever took place, and even Clifford said in 2018 that the affair had never occurred, though she later doubled back again. Though now accusing Trump of orchestrating the payoff, Cohen previously said Trump didn’t reimburse him for the payment to Clifford, according to a 2018 letter obtained by The Daily Mail.

The district attorney’s office has also surfaced a $150,000 payoff reportedly made by Trump to Playboy model Karen McDougal.

According to the newly unsealed indictment, the 34 charges stem from allegations that Trump improperly claimed the payoffs in his business filings.

In bringing the charges, District Attorney Alvin Bragg is using an unprecedented legal theory that would turn potential misdemeanors for falsification of business records into felony campaign finance violations.

Bragg previously boasted about filing over a hundred lawsuits against Trump while serving in the New York Attorney General’s office, and reportedly received $1 million in campaign contributions from the Color of Change PAC, a leftist advocacy group funded by prominent left-wing mega donor George Soros.

Following his arraignment, Trump is slated to return to his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, where he will give an address.