New York: Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 34 counts stemming from 2016 hush-money payments, the first criminal charges for any former US president. The case involves payoffs through an intermediary to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to conceal an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 election.
The former president walked into his arraignment with at least four lawyers from his large legal team. At the defense table, he was flanked by Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche, both former federal prosecutors who are now part of his defense team, and Joe Tacopina, the outspoken lawyer who has been appearing on television talk shows on Trump's behalf in recent weeks.
Also at the defense table was Boris Epshteyn, a longtime adviser who has taken a lead role in plotting the former president's legal strategy.
Trump surrenders to authorities for arraignment
New York: Former President Donald Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday at a Manhattan courthouse ahead of his arraignment on criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.
Trump himself described the experience as “SURREAL” as he traveled from Trump Tower to a lower Manhattan courtroom, where he was to face a judge as the first former president in American history to be criminally prosecuted.
The arraignment, though expected to be brief and procedural in nature, amounts to a remarkable reckoning for Trump after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings. The case is 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.
It represents the new split-screen reality for Trump as he submits to the dour demands of the American criminal justice system while projecting an aura of defiance and victimhood at celebratory campaign events.
Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed. He arrived at court in an eight-car motorcade from Trump Tower, communicating in real time his anger at the process.
“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse," the voluble ex-president posted on his Truth Social platform. "Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The booking and appearance before Judge Juan Merchan should be relatively brief — though hardly routine — as Trump learns for the first time the charges against him. Trump will plead not guilty, according to his lawyers, and is expected to enter the plea himself, as is standard in the court.
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, is the first former president to face criminal charges.
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Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the indictment “political persecution” and predicted it would damage Democrats in 2024. His lawyers have said the former president “did not commit any crime” and they will "vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”
Here's what to expect next:
WILL THERE BE A ‘PERP WALK’?
No. So-called perp walks happen when a criminal suspect is taken in handcuffs out of a police precinct and then driven to the courthouse. But Trump won’t be going to a police precinct. He’s arranged a surrender with the district attorney’s office and will head straight to the court, skipping a police station entirely. It’s very unlikely anyone will get a glimpse of him going into or out of court, unless he wants to be seen. That’s because there are underground entrances, side doors and tunnels in and around the Manhattan courthouse.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER HE SURRENDERS?
Trump will get booked. Here’s what that means: Before computers, information on every criminal suspect would be written down in a big book kept by court officials. Now, it’s all computerized, but the process is largely the same. Court officers will take down Trump’s full name, age, birthdate, height and weight. They’ll check to see if the former president has any outstanding warrants. They’ll take his fingerprints — but they won’t roll his fingertips in ink; these days that’s done by computer, too. Officers will roll each fingertip on a computerized system that records the prints. They may take his photo, known as a mug shot. In New York, this process usually takes about two hours, but can be as long as four. But no one else is getting processed when Trump arrives, so it will go much faster. Then he goes before a judge.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE HEARING?
An arraignment is a hearing in which the indictment will be formally unsealed and the charges will be read aloud, though Trump could request to waive the public reading. He will be asked how he pleads to the charges and he will answer “not guilty.” And Trump’s attorneys Joe Tacopina, Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche, will work with the judge and the district attorney’s office to set a date for the next time he’d be back in court. The judge has ruled that news photographers would be allowed to take photos of the former president at the start of his arraignment.
WILL HE BE ARRESTED?
Technically, yes. When he’s fingerprinted and processed, he’s considered under arrest and in custody. But it won’t look like what it does in the movies or on TV’s “Law & Order.” He won’t be handcuffed and he won’t sit in a jail cell, in part because parts of the courthouse will be cleared out for his arraignment — and because Trump is a former president with Secret Service protection. Not all defendants are handcuffed before they appear before a judge for an arraignment, though some are.
IF THERE IS A MUG SHOT, WILL IT BE MADE PUBLIC?
It depends. In New York City, mug shots aren’t generally made public . They are taken by the law enforcement agency that makes the arrest. There are situations where a judge could make the photo public in response to a public records fight. It could also get leaked, too.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING AT THE COURTHOUSE ON TUESDAY?
Court officials are trying to limit what business is happening at the courthouse at 100 Centre St. in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday. Police are expected to close some streets around the plaza and security will be tight. The New York Police Department is in charge of security in the city, but state court officers are in charge of security inside the court.
WILL TRUMP WALK OUT OF THERE?
In all likelihood, yes. New York’s bail laws have been overhauled over the past few years, meaning Trump would be released without bail because the anticipated charges against him don’t require that bail be set. But it’s possible that Judge Juan Merchan could decide that Trump is a flight risk and order him held in custody, with or without bail. Trump’s lawyers would argue that the former president’s ties to the U.S. are strong, and because he’s a presidential candidate, he has no reason to flee and should be allowed to leave.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The judge and legal teams will set dates for the next hearing and deadlines for discovery, in which the district attorney’s office must turn over all its information to Trump’s lawyers, and motions, which include any requests to shift the venue or dismiss the case outright. That process usually takes months. Tacopina has said he needs to read the indictment first and research before he decides what to do on a change of venue or any motions to dismiss, though it would be very common to file one.