Trump has arrived in New York for his arraignment. What's next?
Updated April 3, 2023 at 3:49 PM ET
Former President Donald Trump has arrived in New York City to surrender himself to authorities after his historic indictment by a Manhattan grand jury.
The charges, which are expected to remain under seal until Trump's arraignment Tuesday, relate to his alleged role in covering up hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 presidential election.
For months, a 23-person grand jury heard evidence of the former president's role in the hush money scheme, including testimony from Daniels and Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Ultimately, more than half of the jurors were convinced there was reasonable cause to believe that Trump committed a crime, resulting in his indictment Thursday.
Trump has denied any criminal wrongdoing and is expected to plead not guilty. "On Tuesday morning I will be going to, believe it or not, the Courthouse," he wrote on Truth Social. "America was not supposed to be this way!"
A court appearance for the history books is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, where the criminal charges against the former president will be unsealed.
"This is the first time that it really seems likely that the former president of the United States will be having a mugshot, being fingerprinted," presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told NPR's Morning Edition. With Trump also facing a handful of other ongoing criminal cases, "we're in for a very rocky spring," Brinkley said.
Trump will be arraigned in person
An arraignment is a criminal defendant's first court appearance. For a normal defendant, that's usually when one would appear for photographs, fingerprints and arrest paperwork, a process that typically takes several hours behind closed doors.
Then, defendants go before a judge to hear the charges against them. Defendants can enter a plea, most often "not guilty," at this stage in the criminal process.
Two of Trump's lawyers told Reuters on Friday that he will not be handcuffed when he arrives, and plans to enter a not guilty plea.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said repeatedly that the justice system should treat a former president the same way as any other defendant, a suggestion that Trump may have to go through many of the typical steps of an arraignment.
Even so, his status as a former president is expected to pose some unusual logistical challenges. He has a large legal team and a Secret Service detail. Protests are expected. There will be media attention. And all of that will happen alongside the everyday operations of a busy state court office.
"There's a lot of external factors that just don't happen for 99.99% of the cases we have," said former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in an NPR interview on Sunday. "It will be a real challenge for the [police department], the court officers, investigators in our office to ensure that things function safely and smoothly."
It's expected that a judge will determine that Trump does not pose a flight risk. After the hearing, Trump will be free to leave. He plans to immediately return to Florida, where he will give a speech on Tuesday night, his campaign announced Sunday.
The case could go to trial
Trump's indictment raises plenty of unique legal and political questions, given his former job and the fact that he's currently campaigning to hold the office again.
But he's still entitled to the same due process as everyone else, says Kim Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney and now a law professor at the University of Baltimore.
When asked about the potential charges against him and penalties they would carry, she says that's "way, way down the line," telling All Things Considered there are plenty of hurdles to get through first.
"There are a lot of procedural, evidentiary and constitutional protections in place to make sure that that far-off question is fairly adjudicated," Wehle adds.
Key to a trial will be the strength of the evidence presented by prosecutors, legal experts said. Another factor will be the jury, said Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina.
"This ultimately will be decided not in the court of public opinion, but it will be decided by those 12 people," Gerhardt told Weekend Edition. "Mr. Trump's lawyers will be there every step of the way, and they'll have to make sure that the jury is fairly chosen and that the jury does its job."
In Manhattan, where Trump won only 12% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election, it could be challenging to find jurors who don't already have a negative opinion of him, said Matthew Galluzzo, a former prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney's Office.
"If I had to pick which side to be on, and I had to win to save my life, I would probably choose to be on the prosecution's side simply because the jury pool in Manhattan is so incredibly against Donald Trump," he said in an interview with NPR.
That trial might not happen for a while
Galluzzo expects defense attorneys to argue that it won't be possible for Trump to get a fair trial in Manhattan and push to have it moved somewhere else.
And he doesn't think that's the only pretrial motion Trump's team will make.
Most similar cases would probably take a year to get to trial, Galluzzo says. He expects that Trump's strategy will be to delay that process as much as possible.
"If he can push this thing back until after the election then he can effectively win the trial that way," he says.
He says it's theoretically possible to delay a case for two or three years using motions and appeals.
But the one thing he's not expecting to see is a settlement deal reached by the two parties.
"They're not going to make him an offer that he would accept," he adds. "And I think more than anything he probably wants that public stage to play the victim, to have an audience."
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