Associated Press//March 31, 2023
//March 31, 2023
Former President Donald Trump will be arraigned Tuesday after his indictment in Manhattan, his formal surrender and arrest presenting the historic, shocking scene of a former U.S. commander in chief forced to stand before a judge.
Court officials confirmed the timing on Friday. When Trump turns himself in, he’ll be booked mostly like anyone else facing charges, mugshot and all. But he isn’t expected to be put in handcuffs, he’ll have Secret Service protection and will almost certainly be released that day.
As Trump and his lawyers prepared for his defense, the prosecutor in his hush money case defended the grand jury investigation that propelled him toward trial while congressional Republicans painted it all as politically motivated.
“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg wrote to three Republican House committee chairs Friday in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The case is plunging the U.S. into uncharted legal waters, with Trump the first former president ever to face an indictment. And the political implications could be huge ahead of next year’s presidential election. Trump is actively campaigning for a third term and has said the case against him could hurt that effort — though his campaign is already raising money by citing it.
Top Republicans also have begun closing ranks around him. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has promised to use congressional oversight to probe Bragg. Reps. James Comer, Jim Jordan and Bryan Steil, the committee chairs whom Bragg addressed in his letter, have asked the district attorney’s office for grand jury testimony, documents and copies of any communications with the Justice Department.
Trump’s indictment came after a grand jury probe into hush money paid during the 2016 presidential campaign to squelch allegations of an extramarital sexual encounter. The indictment itself has remained sealed, as is standard in New York before an arraignment.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as a “scam,” a “persecution,” an injustice. He argues that it is specifically designed to damage his 2024 presidential run. Within hours of the news breaking on Thursday, his campaign was noting the development in fundraising emails.
Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina said during TV interviews Friday he would “very aggressively” challenge the legal validity of the Manhattan grand jury indictment. Trump himself, on his social media platform, trained his ire about what he calls a “political persecution” on a new target: the judge expected to handle the case.
Since no current or former president had ever been charged with a crime, there’s no rulebook for booking the defendant. Indeed, Trump was asked to surrender Friday, but his lawyers said the Secret Service, which protects him as a former president, needed more time to make security preparations, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Bragg’s office said it had contacted Trump’s lawyer to coordinate a surrender. Ahead of the court’s announcement of the arraignment date, Trump’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said that Tuesday was the likely date for Trump to turn himself in.
When Trump goes into custody he isn’t expected to be put in handcuffs, according to a person familiar with the matter. Secret Service agents will escort him through the booking process at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, but prosecutors have no plans to shackle Trump’s hands, the person said.
For weeks, court officials and representatives from the district attorney’s office, the New York Police Department and U.S. Secret Service have been discussing logistics and planning for a Trump indictment. The person could not publicly discuss details of the preparations, and thus spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Trump will be fingerprinted, a mug shot will be taken, investigators will complete arrest paperwork and do a check to see if he has any outstanding criminal charges or warrants. That all happens away from the public.
The former president would then appear before a judge for an afternoon arraignment.
Even for defendants who turn themselves in, answering criminal charges in New York generally entails at least several hours of detention while being fingerprinted, photographed, and going through other procedures.
The investigation dug into six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both claim to have had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics; he denies having sexual liaisons with either woman.
As Trump ran for president in 2016, his allies paid the women to bury their allegations. The publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for rights to her story and sat on it, in an arrangement brokered by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
After Cohen himself paid Daniels $130,000, Trump’s company reimbursed him, added bonuses and logged the payments to Cohen as legal expenses.
Federal prosecutors argued — in a 2018 criminal case against Cohen — that the payments equated to illegal aid to Trump’s campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violation charges, but federal prosecutors didn’t go after Trump, who was then in the White House. However, some of their court filings obliquely implicated him as someone who knew about the payment arrangements.
The New York indictment came as Trump contends with other investigations that could have grave legal consequences.
In Atlanta, prosecutors are considering whether he committed any crimes when trying to get Georgia officials to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss there to Joe Biden.
At the federal level, a Justice Department-appointed special counsel also is investigating Trump’s efforts to unravel the national election results. Additionally, the special counsel is examining how and why Trump held onto a cache of top secret government documents at his Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, and whether the ex-president or his representatives tried to obstruct the probe into those documents.
Michael R. Sisak and Will Weissert report for The Associated Press.
Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York and Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo and Farnoush Amiri contributed from Washington.t