Former US president Donald Trump is set to appear in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) on charges related to falsifying business records in a hush-money investigation, the first president ever to be charged with a crime.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly assailed the investigation, has called the indictment “political persecution” and predicted it would damage Democrats in 2024. Trump’s lawyers have said the former president “did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court”.
Here’s what to expect.
When will Trump travel to the Manhattan criminal court?
Trump flew into New York from his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday (Tuesday AEST) and is expected to leave Trump Tower on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) and make the 6.4km drive to the Manhattan criminal courthouse, where he is scheduled to face a judge for his arraignment at 2.15pm EDT (4.15am Wednesday AEST).
Will Trump be handcuffed?
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 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 will happen 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 computerised, 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 computerised system that records the prints. They may take his photo. In New York, this process usually takes about two hours, but can be as long as four. Then he goes before a judge.
What will happen 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 “guilty” or “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. 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.
What else is happening at the courthouse on the day?
Court officials are trying to limit what business is happening at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT). 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.
New York Mayor Eric Adams warned Trump’s supporters to keep the peace, saying that the dignity of the proceedings would not be disrupted. Barricades have been deployed, and the Police Department sent a stand-ready order to its roughly 35,000 officers, a force larger and better trained than some national armies.
Will Trump walk out of the district attorney’s office?
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 US are strong, and because he’s a presidential candidate, he has no reason to flee and should be allowed to leave.
What will happen 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.