Former US President Donald Trump is expected to hand himself over to authorities in New York next Tuesday ahead of a Court arraignment after a grand jury voted Thursday to indict him over hush-money payments to a porn star while he was running for the White House in 2016.
The indictment remains under seal and the extent of the charges he will face, as it relates to campaign finance violations and others, remains unknown.
Trump is the first former President in United States history to face criminal charges. That comes as he remains a leading contender for the Republican nomination for the Presidential election in 2024.
The indictment will remain sealed until his first court appearance next week when he will be fingerprinted and photographed but unlikely handcuffed, as some accommodations are likely to be made given his status and the unprecedented nature of it all.
Trump blasted the decision in a statement calling it “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history”, referring to the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a disgrace.
But he reportedly faces more than two dozen charges related to campaign finance violations and falsifying business records as it relates to hush money payments to two women in 2016 – Stormy Daniels who received $130 000 and Playboy model Karen McDougal who received $150 000 – both for their silence ahead of defeating Hillary Clinton for the Presidency in 2016.
Hofstra University Constitutional Law Professor James Sample says, “This is a very, very big step in a big historic moment but it’s going to be many months, maybe even approximately a year before a trial, if there ever is one, will go forward and so we are a long way away from Donald Trump actually suffering lasting consequences for his actions. But this is one of the first times in Donald Trump’s entire life, much less political career, where there are some real potential consequences for his actions.”
Republicans have quickly come to the former President’s defence, labeling the indictment “outrageous”, “divisive” and “politically motivated” – but experts argue this is about the law.
“At this point, he is no longer going to be able to compete merely in the court of public opinion. Competing in actual court is a different thing. Spin won’t matter, facts will matter, the law will matter and just as happened between election day in November of 2020 and the certification of the vote on January 6, 2021, in that in between period, every single time the president took his election denial efforts to court, in court where facts and law actually matter, he lost.”
Security arrangements for his arrest and appearance in court in lower Manhattan on Tuesday are now at a premium, with the NYPD in concert with federal agencies preparing for potential unrest and, at the very least, a media circus in a nation that remains divided on the man at the centre of it all.
“It’s sickening. It breaks my heart that this great man (flash)…. it just breaks my heart that he, his family, his staff, all of us, we have to go through this.”
“I feel relief (flash) I think it’s a dark part of our nation’s history and I do believe that illegal and criminal acts should be prosecuted regardless of whether or not you’re a sitting or former president.”
“It’s politics. I think they’re just dying to find a way to keep him from being eligible for running for reelection.”
While the Florida-based Trump is expected to hand himself over to New York authorities next week, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron De Santis said he would not assist in an extradition request should one be received from New York.
And while this could add some additional theatre to the process, legal experts are clear that US states, although enjoying a degree of sovereignty, cannot stop a warrant of arrest from being executed in another state given that Americans are citizens of the same country. As politics and the law clash in a spectacle never before witnessed in the United States.