(AP) — An extraordinary moment in US history is set to soon unfold in a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday: Former President Donald Trump, who faces multiple election-related investigations, will surrender to face criminal charges stemming from 2016 hush money payments.
The booking and arraignment are likely to be relatively brief — though hardly routine — as Trump is fingerprinted, learns the charges against him and pleads, as expected, not guilty. Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that TV cameras won’t be allowed in the courtroom.
Trump, who was impeached twice by the US House but was never convicted in the US Senate, will become the first former president to face criminal charges. The nation’s 45th commander in chief will be escorted from Trump Tower to the courthouse by the Secret Service and may have his mug shot taken.
Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said Tuesday that Trump wouldn’t plead guilty to lesser charges, even if it might resolve the case. He said he didn’t believe the case would ever make it to a jury, but he conceded, “Really, there’s a lot of mystery here because we’re doing something that’s never been done before.”
“I think there will be a typical processing, which does not take long, 20-30 minutes. There won’t be handcuffs,” Tacopina told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “But, yeah, he’ll be processed the way anyone else would be — to a degree.”
New York police are braced for protests by Trump supporters, who share the Republican former president’s belief that the New York grand jury indictment and three additional pending investigations are politically motivated and intended to weaken his bid to retake the White House in 2024.
Trump, a former reality TV star, has been hyping that narrative to his political advantage, saying he raised $8 million in the less than a week since the indictment on claims of a “witch hunt.” He has assailed the Manhattan district attorney, egged on supporters to protest and claimed without evidence that the judge presiding over the case “hates me” — something his own lawyer has said is not true.
Trump is scheduled to return to his Palm Beach, Florida, home, Mar-a-Lago, on Tuesday evening to hold a rally, punctuating his new reality: submitting to the dour demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an aura of defiance and victimhood at celebratory campaign events. At least 500 prominent supporters have been invited, with some of the most pro-Trump congressional Republicans expected to attend.
A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
Inside the Manhattan courtroom, prosecutors led by New York’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, are expected to unseal the indictment issued last week by a grand jury. This is when Trump and his defense lawyers will get their first glimpse of the precise allegations against him.
The indictment contains multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press last week.
After the arraignment, Trump is expected to be released by authorities because the charges against him don’t require that bail be set.
The investigation is scrutinising six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy 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.
The arraignment will unfold against the backdrop of heavy security in New York, coming more than two years after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a failed bid to halt the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s win.
Though police said they had no intelligence suggesting any violence was likely, they were on high alert for any potential disruptions.