Donald Trump, the former U.S. president and front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, will appear in court on Tuesday to be fingerprinted, photographed and formally charged in a watershed moment ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Trump, 76, is the first sitting or former president to face criminal charges. He was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury last week in a case stemming from a 2016 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, though the specific charges have yet to be disclosed. Trump has said he is innocent and is due to plead not guilty.
Although Trump has drawn tens of thousands of fervent supporters to rallies across the country, it was unclear how many would travel to his heavily Democratic home town, where automobile travel is difficult.
“Today (Tuesday) is the day that a ruling political party ARRESTS its leading opponent for having committed NO CRIME,” Trump, who flew to New York from Florida on Monday, said in a fundraising email sent out on Tuesday morning.
The arraignment, where Trump will be in court to hear charges and have a chance to enter a plea, was planned for 2:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) on Tuesday and was likely to be brief.
“It won’t be a long day in court,” Joseph Tacopina, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on ABC.
Yahoo News late on Monday reported that Trump would face 34 felony counts for falsification of business records.
Any trial is at least more than a year away, legal experts said.
Being indicted or even convicted does not legally prevent Trump from running for president.
Five photographers will be admitted to the courtroom before the arraignment starts to take pictures for several minutes. Trump’s lawyers had urged a judge to keep them out, arguing they would worsen “an already almost circus-like atmosphere.”
Some Trump supporters and detractors gathered outside the courthouse ahead of the arraignment amid tight security. A video posted on Twitter by a BuzzFeed reporter showed two female Trump supporters, one of them draped in a U.S. flag, tussling with another woman over a large black banner outside the courthouse that read, “TRUMP LIES ALL THE TIME,” before police intervened.
The Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who led the investigation, is set to give a news conference afterward the arraignment. Trump and his allies have portrayed the case as politically motivated.
Trump will return to Florida and deliver remarks from his Mar-a-Lago resort at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday (0015 GMT on Wednesday), his office said.
Bragg has faced harsh criticism from Trump and his office has received bomb threats in recent weeks. Security officials have said they were not aware of credible threats surrounding Trump’s courtroom appearance.
Mayor Eric Adams warned potential rabble-rousers to behave.
“Our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger,” Adams told reporters on Monday.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is widely expected to seek re-election and face a potential 2024 rematch against Trump, said he had faith in the New York police.
Trump’s lead has widened over rivals in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, conducted after news broke that he would face criminal charges.
Some 48% of Republicans say they want Trump to be their party’s presidential nominee, up from 44% last month. Second-place Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fell from 30% to around 19%.
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 New Jersey resident Robert Hoatson, 71, outside Trump Tower, where Trump stayed on Monday.
Susan Miller said she hoped the show of support would “give him a little strength.”
“He’s honest as the day is long,” Miller said.
The Manhattan grand jury that indicted Trump heard evidence 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 a sexual relationship but has acknowledged reimbursing his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for the payment. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance law violations and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified in the Manhattan investigation last month.
Trump hired Todd Blanche, a prominent criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to join his legal team, two sources said.
Trump also faces a separate criminal probe into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state of Georgia, and investigations by the Justice Department into the election and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Trump’s campaign raised $7 million in the three days after word of the indictment emerged last Thursday, according to senior adviser Jason Miller.
Leading potential challengers for the nomination, including DeSantis and Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence, have publicly rallied around Trump in recent days. Only one 2024 rival, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, has said Trump should drop out of the race.