Trump to face court charges in New York as police tighten security
United States (US) ex-president and 2024 US elections Republican nominee frontrunner Donald Trump will appear in court on Tuesday. He is set to be formally charged, finger-printed and have a mug shot taken in a watershed moment ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Trump was indicted last week becoming the first sitting or former president to face criminal charges, over a case involving a 2016 hush money payment top adult film star Stormy Daniels. He has said he is innocent and is due to plead not guilty.
Trump will on Tuesday turn himself in amid tight security as demonstrations are expected for and against the man who has riled liberals and some global allies but is lauded by many white blue-collar and conservative Christian voters.
“We have to take back our country and make America great again!” Trump on Monday wrote on his Truth Social profile shortly after arriving in New York from Florida, urging supporters to donate to his campaign.
The arraignment where Trump will be in court to hear charges and have a chance to enter a plea, is planned for 2:15 pm (2115 EAT) on Tuesday.
Trump’s lawyers opposed videography, photography and radio coverage saying it would exacerbate an already almost circus-like atmosphere around this case, detracting from dignity and decorum.
US Judge Juan Merchan late on Monday ruled that five photographers will be admitted before the arraignment starts to take pictures for several minutes until they must stop, with cameras allowed in the hallways of the building.
US Democrat District Attorney Alvin Bragg who led the investigation will later give a news conference in the afternoon.
“Trump will return to Florida and deliver remarks from Mar-a-Lago at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday (0315 EAT on Wednesday),” his office said.
The specific charges in the indictment by a grand jury convened are due to be disclosed on Tuesday. Trump and his allies have portrayed the charges as politically motivated.
Yahoo News late on Monday said Trump would face 34 felony counts for falsification of business records. Citing a single source briefed on Tuesday’s arraignment procedures, Yahoo said none of the charges against Trump were misdemeanours.
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Trump’s case is divisive
Police over the weekend began erecting barricades near Trump Tower where Trump arrived on Monday after flying in from Florida and the Manhattan Criminal Court building, with demonstrations expected at both sites on Tuesday.
The New York City ‘s Mayor Eric Adams warned potential rabble-rousers to behave.
“Our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves. New York City is our home and not a playground for your misplaced anger,” Adams said.
US President Joe Biden who is a democrat and widely expected to seek re-election facing a potential rematch against Trump, said he is not only not worried about unrest but also has faith in the New York Police Department.
The case has divided people in New York, where Trump’s name is emblazoned on buildings related to his business ventures.
“It’s a terrific day. I hope it goes well and that he is eventually found guilty,” said 71-year-old New Jersey resident Robert Hoatson outside Trump Tower on Monday.
But Trump backer Susan Miller, leaning against the metal barriers on New York’s 5th Avenue just south of Trump Tower on Monday evening, said she hoped the show of support would give Trump a little strength when he goes down to battle.
“He’s honest as the day is long,” she said, adding she planned to return on Tuesday.
Trump’s lead widens
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, Trump’s lead has widened over rivals in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating contest after news broke that he would face criminal charges.
Some 48 percent of self-described Republicans say they want Trump to be their party’s presidential nominee, up from 44 percent in a March 14-20 poll. Second-place US Florida State Governor Ron Desantis fell from 30 percent to around 19 percent.
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The Manhattan grand jury that indicted Trump had evidence for months this year about a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Daniels has said she was paid to keep silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006. Trump denies having had any such relationship with her.
An indictment or even a conviction do not legally prevent Trump from running for president.
“Beefing up his legal team, Trump hired prominent white-collar criminal defence lawyer and former federal prosecutor Todd Blanche to join his defence,” two sources familiar with the matter said.
The Manhattan investigation is just one of several legal challenges concerning Trump.
Trump also faces a separate criminal probe into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia and two investigations by a special counsel including over his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Legal experts said any potential trial in the Manhattan case is still at least more than a year away, meaning it could occur during or after the presidential campaign.
“We have raised $7 million in the three days after word of the indictment emerged last Thursday,” Trump’s campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said as he took aim at the media’s reporting of the indictment.
What effect the case has on republicans deciding on their candidate for the November 2024 Presidential election and the choice all Americans, could have profound implications in the world’s most powerful country and beyond its borders.
Leading potential challengers for the nomination including Desantis and his former vice president Mike Pence, have publicly rallied around Trump in recent days.
While president between 2017 and 2021, Trump regularly clashed with allies over trade and defence, and a return to the Oval Office looks set to weaken US support for Ukraine.
Read: Biden vows Ukraine to prevail in war with Russia
On the Manhattan case, Trump in 2018 initially disputed knowing anything about the payment to Daniels. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment, which he called a simple private transaction.
Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to campaign finance law violations for his role in orchestrating the payments to Daniels as well as McDougal and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified that Trump directed him to make the payments.
Cohen testified before the Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump on March 13.
“I decided that I was not going to allow history to remember me as the villain to his story,” he told Reuters following Trump’s indictment.