Donald Trump, the first ex-president in history to face criminal charges, is headed to New York this week 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.
The former president has remained “surprisingly calm,” spending the weekend in Florida playing golf and mulling how to use it to boost his campaign, CNN reported Sunday night, after an indictment that caught him and his advisers “off guard.”
Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud, CNN has 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 given Trump more opportunity to claim he’s being political persecuted.
Here is what we know about the expected arraignment.
Trump is expected to leave Florida around noon ET on Monday, landing at New York’s LaGuardia airport around 3 p.m. ET, according to a source familiar with his plans. 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 on CNN’s “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.
Several media outlets, including CNN, have asked a New York judge to unseal the indictment and for permission to broadcast Trump’s expected appearance in the courtroom on Tuesday.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are among the outlets making the request.
The news organizations are asking 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.”
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.
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 told CNN, 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 on CNN that Merchan was “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.
Tacopina told CNN’s Dana Bash 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.”
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 more than $5 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, CNN’s Kristen Holmes reported.
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.”