Prosecutors have laid out a case of lies and cover-ups against Donald Trump over hush-money payments made to an adult movie star, a Playboy model and a doorman to hide potentially damaging information ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Here's an explanation of the felony counts against Mr Trump, the first former US president ever to face criminal charges, and what will happen next:

The charges

The indictment handed down by a Manhattan grand jury and unsealed yesterday charges Mr Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Under New York law, a defendant convicted of falsifying business records can receive between one and four years in prison.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the scheme involved Mr Trump, his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and executives at American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid.

Mr Bragg said they were involved in what he called a "catch and kill" operation to "buy and suppress negative information to help Mr Trump's chance of winning the election."

Mr Trump was accused of arranging the payment to Ms Daniels through Cohen just days before the November 2016 election to buy her silence about a 2006 tryst at a Lake Tahoe resort.

Mr Trump reimbursed Cohen with checks disguised as part of a retainer agreement while "in truth, there was no retainer agreement," Mr Bragg said.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg

Another payment - $30,000 - was made through AMI to buy the silence of a former Trump Tower doorman who was claiming, apparently falsely, that Mr Trump fathered a child out of wedlock, Mr Bragg said.

The final case involved a woman who received $150,000 from AMI in exchange for not speaking about a nearly year-long sexual relationship she allegedly had with the then-married Trump.

The woman was not identified by Mr Bragg but it has been reported previously that she was Karen McDougal, a model and former Playboy playmate.

Cohen, who has since turned against his former boss, has acknowledged paying Ms Daniels on Mr Trump's behalf and was sentenced to three years in prison for the hush-money case, tax evasion and other crimes.

Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a political "witch hunt" by Mr Bragg, a Democrat, intended to derail his 2024 White House campaign.

Former US President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom with his attorneys at Manhattan Criminal Court

Next legal steps

Mr Trump pleaded not guilty in a packed courtroom to the 34 counts, which one of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, dismissed following the hearing as "boilerplate."

"We're going to fight it, we're going to fight it hard," Mr Blanche said.

The judge gave Mr Trump's lawyers until 8 August to file motions in the case with an initial trial date in January 2024.

Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University, said Trump is essentially accused of orchestrating a "grand scheme to undermine the democratic process."

"In other words, by covering up his salacious sexual misconduct through multiple false records... he succeeded in hiding truthful information which if it were made public would have seriously damaged his quest for the presidency."

Micheal Cohen, Former personal attorney to Donald Trump,

Ellen Yaroshefsky, a law professor at Hofstra University, said prosecutors may be faced with "somewhat of a hurdle to prove that the false business records were with intent to influence the election."

One potential hurdle for prosecutors could be Cohen, Mr Trump's former lawyer, whose credibility as a witness is certain to come under attack because he is now a convicted felon.

There is also a precedent of sorts.

John Edwards, who twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination, was put on trial in 2012, accused of campaign finance violations for making hush-money payments to a mistress.

The jury deadlocked and the Justice Department opted not to retry the case.

Other legal woes

Mr Trump is facing legal scrutiny beyond the Big Apple.

A special counsel is looking into his role in the 6 January 2021 assault on Congress by his supporters.

Special counsel Jack Smith is also investigating a cache of classified documents retained by Mr Trump after he left office.

The documents were recovered in an FBI raid on Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida in August 2022.

A district attorney in Georgia is also investigating Mr Trump's attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election in the southern state.