What to know about the Trump indictment on the eve of his court appearance
Donald Trump, the first former president in history to face criminal charges, arrived in New York Monday for an expected arraignment on Tuesday after being indicted last week by a Manhattan grand jury.
The expected voluntary surrender of a former president and 2024 White House candidate will be a unique affair in more ways than one – both for the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York courthouse where he’ll be arraigned and for a nation watching to see how it’ll shake up the GOP presidential primary.
Trump’s mood was described by an adviser on Monday as “defiant and focused,” as he watched expansive television coverage during his flight back to his native New York City from Florida. The former president has remained “surprisingly calm,” spending the weekend in Florida playing golf and mulling how to use it to boost his campaign, it was reported Sunday night, after an indictment that caught him and his advisers “off guard.”
Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud, it was reported, but the indictment remains under seal.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has been investigating Trump in connection with his alleged role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up involving adult film star Stormy Daniels that dates to the 2016 presidential election. Trump and his allies have already attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg – and an advertised Tuesday night speech back at Mar-a-Lago will likely give Trump more opportunity to claim he’s being political persecuted.
Here is what we know about the expected arraignment.
What will it look like and will Trump be handcuffed?
Trump left Florida shortly after noon ET on Monday and landed at New York’s LaGuardia airport around 3:30 p.m. ET. The former president will stay at Trump Tower Monday night and is expected to depart New York immediately after Tuesday’s arraignment to head back to Florida, the source said.
But even before Trump’s appearance, his presence will be felt in the Manhattan courthouse Tuesday, as all trials and most other court activity is being halted before he is slated to arrive.
The Secret Service, the New York Police Department and the court officers are coordinating security for Trump’s expected appearance. The Secret Service is scheduled to accompany Trump in the early afternoon to the district attorney’s office, which is in the same building as the courthouse.
Trump will be booked by the investigators, which includes taking his fingerprints. Ordinarily, a mug shot would be taken. But sources familiar with the preparations were uncertain as to whether there would be a mugshot – because Trump’s appearance is widely known and authorities were concerned about the improper leaking of the photo, which would be a violation of state law.
Typically, after defendants are arrested, they are booked and held in cells near the courtroom before they are arraigned. But that won’t happen with Trump. Once the former president is finished being processed, he’ll be taken through a back set of hallways and elevators to the floor where the courtroom is located. He’ll then come out to a public hallway to walk into the courtroom.
Trump is not expected to be handcuffed, as he will be surrounded by armed federal agents for his protection.
“Obviously, this is different. This has never happened before. I have never had Secret Service involved in an arraignment before at 100 Centre Street,” Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said “State of the Union” on Sunday. “All the Tuesday stuff is still very much up in the air, other than the fact that we will very loudly and proudly say not guilty.”
By the afternoon, Trump is expected to be brought to the courtroom, where the indictment will be unsealed and he will formally face the charges. After he is arraigned, Trump will almost certainly be released on his own recognizance. It is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that conditions could be set on his travel.
Ordinarily, a defendant who is released would walk out the front doors, but Secret Service will want to limit the time and space where Trump is in public. So instead, once the court hearing is over, Trump is expected to walk again through the public hallway and into the back corridors to the district attorney’s office, back to where his motorcade will be waiting.
Then he’ll head to the airport so he can get back to Mar-a-Lago, where he’s scheduled an event that evening to speak publicly.
Will the arraignment be televised?
Trump’s arraignment will not be broadcast live, a New York judge said Monday night.
The judge, Juan Merchan, rejected a request by several media outlets, asking him for permission to broadcast Trump’s expected appearance in the courtroom on Tuesday. However, he ruled five still photographers will be allowed to take pictures of Trump and the courtroom before the hearing begins.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal were among the outlets making the request — which also asked the judge to unseal the indictment.
The news organizations asked for a “limited number of photographers, videographers, and radio journalists to be present at the arraignment,” and said in the letter that they are making “this limited request for audio-visual coverage in order to ensure that the operations of the Court will not be disrupted in any way.”
While he rejected the request to broadcast the arraignment, Merchan acknowledged the historical significance of the proceeding.
“That this indictment involves a matter of monumental significance cannot possibly be disputed. Never in the history of the United States has a sitting or past President been indicted on criminal charges. Mr. Trump’s arraignment has generated unparalleled public interest and media attention,” he wrote. “The populace rightly hungers for the most accurate and current information available. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous.”
Merchan said that while the media’s request was understandable, the news organizations’ interests in providing the broadest possible access to the proceedings must be weighed against “competing interests.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not taken a position on whether to allow cameras in the courtroom. Trump’s legal team has cited security concerns in arguing against allowing them.
If the judge does not grant the media outlets’ unsealing request, it is expected that the indictment will be made public when Trump appears in court.
Who’s the judge presiding?
Judge Juan Merchan is no stranger to Trump’s orbit.
Merchan, an acting New York Supreme Court justice, has sentenced Trump’s close confidant Allen Weisselberg to prison, presided over the Trump Organization tax fraud trial and overseen former adviser Steve Bannon’s criminal fraud case.
Merchan does not stand for disruptions or delays, attorneys who have appeared before him said, and he’s known to maintain control of his courtroom even when his cases draw considerable attention.
Trump attorney Timothy Parlatore said during an interview Friday “not easy” on him when he tried a case before him but that he will likely be fair.
“I’ve tried a case in front of him before. He could be tough. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be something that’s going to change his ability to evaluate the facts and the law in this case,” Parlatore said.
How might Trump’s team fight the charges?
Tacopina said Sunday that the former president will plead not guilty. His team “will look at every potential issue that we will be able to challenge, and we will challenge,” Tacopina said.
The Trump team’s court strategy could center around challenging the case because it may rely on business record entries that prosecutors tie to hush money payments to Daniels seven years ago, beyond the statute of limitations for a criminal case. Tacopina suggested in TV interviews Sunday the statute of limitations may have passed, and said the Trump businesses didn’t make false entries.
Trump’s legal team isn’t currently considering asking to move the case to a different New York City borough, Tacopina said. “There’s been no discussion of that whatsoever,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in another interview Sunday. “It’s way too premature to start worrying about venue changes until we really see the indictment and grapple with the legal issues.”
Multiple sources told CNN on Monday that Trump has hired a new attorney, Todd Blanche, to serve as lead counsel in his defense.
Blanche most recently was a partner at law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and previously represented former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Igor Fruman, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani’s and a key figure in Trump’s first impeachment trial.
Tacopina and Susan Necheles will remain as lawyers on Trump’s legal team.
Blanche’s hiring has been seen by some inside Trump’s orbit as a sidelining of Tacopina, who up until this point has been one of the most forward-facing attorneys dealing with Trump’s defense in the Manhattan DA’s case. However, a senior adviser to Trump pushed back on that characterization and said the addition of Blanche was intended to add more legal firepower to Trump’s defense.
How is this affecting the Trump campaign?
Trump’s political advisers over the weekend were actively discussing how to best campaign off the indictment they have portrayed as a political hoax and witch hunt, according to sources close to Trump.
His team has spent the last several days presenting the former president with polls showing him with a growing lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, currently considered Trump’s biggest 2024 rival, in a head-to-head match up. And his team says it has raised $7 million dollars since he was indicted Thursday.
Despite the initial shock of the indictment, Trump has remained surprisingly calm and focused in the days ahead of his court appearance.
The former president has seemingly saved his rage for his social media site, escalating his attacks on Bragg and leveling threats.
Many of Trump’s allies, critics and likely opponents in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race have similarly attacked Bragg before and after the indictment.
But former Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who announced his presidential campaign on Sunday, doubled down on his call for Trump to drop out of the race now that he is facing criminal charges.
“The office is more important than any individual person. So for the sake of the office of the presidency, I do think that’s too much of a sideshow and distraction,” Hutchinson said in an interview on ABC News. “He needs to be able to concentrate on his due process.”
Trump is not planning to speak publicly in New York on Tuesday, aides said, if he follows advice from members of his legal team who have urged the former president to refrain from the vitriol he’s been directing toward the prosecutor and judge presiding over the case.
But that restraint does not extend to Florida, aides said, where he is planning to deliver a full-throated defense against the New York case as well as other investigations he is facing during a primetime address from Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night.
It’s the first test to see whether Trump can navigate two vastly different approaches to his legal case and his political campaign, which are now inextricably linked.
“He’s taking this very seriously and following legal advice,” an adviser to Trump said Monday night. “He will make his case to Americans Tuesday night at Mar-a-Lago.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.
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