Former President Donald Trump left his Palm Beach, Florida, residence on April 3 to return to his hometown of New York ahead of his April 4 arraignment before the state’s Supreme Court.
Trump, who was indicted last week by a Manhattan grand jury, is the first former U.S. president to face criminal prosecution.
Although the indictment remains sealed, the 45th president is expected to face falsification of business records charges surrounding an alleged hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels—whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford—made in 2016 by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.
Prosecutors are expected to argue that the payment should have been reported as a contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.
This legal approach, which combines state falsification of records charges with a violation of federal campaign finance laws, has been described by some legal experts as novel and high risk.
Trump will spend the eve of his arraignment at Trump Tower before surrendering himself to the district attorney’s office in lower Manhattan. Media outlets, citing unnamed sources, say Trump will arrive there at around 1 p.m. ahead of his 2:15 p.m. arraignment hearing.
At and around the courthouse, security measures will be heightened to account for the presence of a former president. But while the proceedings will be open to the public and the press on a first-come, first-served basis, they will not be live-streamed.
According to his legal team, the 45th president will not be handcuffed, though legal experts expect he will be fingerprinted and have a mugshot taken before being walked to the courtroom.
“I imagine that he will have to be fingerprinted and have his mugshot—though I don’t think there will be a perp walk and I don’t think he will be handcuffed or anything like that—until they can take him before a judge and then he will enter a plea,” Michael McDaniels, a professor at the Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, told WCMU.
“He will be arraigned, as we say, on the charges against him and asked how he pleads to those charges.”
In an April 2 interview with CNN Joe Tacopina, one of Trump’s attorneys, said that his client intends to “loudly and proudly” plead, “not guilty,” but noted that many of the details of the arraignment were still unclear given the unprecedented nature of the situation.
“This has never happened before,” he said. “I’ve never had the Secret Service involved in an arraignment before at 100 Centre St, so … I honestly don’t know how this is going to go.”
However, the attorney did advise that a motion to dismiss the case was likely forthcoming.
“We will take the indictment, we will dissect it,” he said. “The team will look at every, every potential issue that we will be able to challenge and we will challenge, and of course, I very much anticipate a motion to dismiss coming because there’s no law that fits this.”
What Comes Next?
After the hearing, Trump will return home to Florida, where he is set to address the nation in an 8:15 p.m. speech from his Mar-a-Lago estate.
“I think the entire world will be watching just how strong and just how fervent he is, that we must continue this Make America Great Again movement, because you can’t have Trump policies without President Trump,” Trump adviser Jason Miller told Newsmax on April 2.
While the details of Trump’s speech have yet to be released, he may be limited in what he can say if the presiding judge, acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, decides to impose a gag order on the former president—a possibility that is “extremely likely,” according to Duncan Levin, a former senior staffer in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“I think it’s not only a possibility, but it’s extremely likely that there will be a gag order in the case,” Levin told Insider. “Gag orders are very common in criminal cases, particularly in cases where there is an enormous amount of pretrial publicity like this one.”
Decrying that possibility in an April 3 interview, Alina Habba, another Trump attorney, said: “They’re going to gag my client? That is seriously un-American. You do not do that. Everybody has a right to free speech.”
If the case is not dismissed Trump’s defense team is likely to argue that their client cannot receive a fair trial in Manhattan and try to have the case moved elsewhere, argued Matthew Galluzo, a former prosecutor with the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
“Can he actually get a fair trial in Manhattan?” Galluzo wondered in a March 31 interview with NPR.
“Or is every juror going to have already convicted him in their mind when they show up for jury duty? I don’t know what the decision on that motion would be, but I imagine it’s going to get made.”
As for when the trial might begin, Galluzo added that Trump would probably try to delay the proceedings “as much as possible” with pre-trial motions.
“For him, if he can push this thing back until after the election then, you know, he can effectively win the trial that way,” the attorney speculated.
“And so … is it possible to delay a case two, three years if you’re, you know, vigorously making all sorts of motions and appealing those decisions? Yeah, it could happen.”
As the former president made his way to Palm Beach International Airport on April 3, throngs of his supporters lined the streets along his route to give him a warm send-off.
Among those supporters was Ashton Munholland, president of the Palm Beach Young Republicans club, who said he feared that the United States was turning into a “banana republic.”
“I think it’s important to stand for our country right now,” Munholland told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
“I think the injustice and the attacks on President Trump are an attack on our country. President Trump is extremely connected to the heart and voice of the people of our country.”
Despite the peaceful nature of those demonstrations, New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a stern warning on April 3 to those who might be considering traveling there to engage in protests.
“While there may be some rabble-rousers thinking about coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves,” Adams said at a press conference.
“New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger. We are the safest large city in America because we respect the rule of law in New York City.”
In particular, Adams called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who announced over the weekend that she will head to New York to protest against Trump’s indictment.
“Although we have no specific threats—people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known to spread misinformation and hate speech, she’s stated she’s coming to town,” Adams said. “While you’re in town, be on your best behavior.
“As always, we will not allow violence or vandalism of any kind. And, if one is caught participating in any act of violence, they will be arrested and held accountable, no matter who you are.”
Greene, who will participate in a 10:30 a.m. rally on April 4 with the New York Young Republican Club, has described the charges against Trump as “election interference” and an “unprecedented abuse of our justice system.”
“I also reject any attempt and anyone who dresses in MAGA but incites violence or commits violence while pretending to be one of us,” she added in an April 2 Twitter post.
“You are not one of us, you are one of them. We will not live in fear and we will lawfully stand against tyranny and corruption while we show our support for President Trump.”
While some Trump supporters have engaged in peaceful protests against his indictment, others have been wary of participating in demonstrations, warning that they could be part of a “campaign” to incite violence from Republicans.
Preparing for all possibilities, the New York Police Department (NYPD) began erecting metal barriers around Trump Tower and blocking off roads near the courthouse over the weekend.
“[The] department remains ready to respond as needed and will ensure everyone is able to peacefully exercise their rights,” the NYPD told Reuters in a statement.
Jack Phillips, Gary Bai, and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times