Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
Former President Donald Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday at a Manhattan courthouse ahead of his arraignment on criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.
Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed — a remarkable reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings and an extraordinary moment in U.S. history.
He arrived at court in an eight-car motorcade that took him from Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan through the main north-south highway on the east side of the city, past landmarks such as the United Nations. Along the way, the ex-president posted on his social media platform: “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The booking and appearance before Judge Juan Merchan should be relatively brief — though hardly routine — as Trump learns for the first time the charges against him. Trump will plead not guilty, according to his lawyers, and is expected to enter the plea himself, as is standard in the court.
Merchan has ruled that TV cameras won’t be allowed in the courtroom.
Trump, who was impeached twice by the U.S. House but was never convicted in the U.S. Senate, is the first former president to face criminal charges. The nation’s 45th commander in chief was escorted from Trump Tower to the courthouse by the Secret Service and may have his mug shot taken.
“He is strong and ready to go,” Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told The Associated Press. Earlier, Tacopina said in a TV interview that the former president wouldn’t plead guilty to lesser charges, even if it might resolve the case. He also said he didn’t think the case would make it to a jury.
New York police said they were ready for large protests by Trump supporters, who share the former president’s belief that the New York grand jury indictment and three additional pending investigations are politically motivated and intended to weaken his bid to retake the White House in 2024. Journalists often outnumbered protesters, though.
Trump said he has raised $8 million in the less than a week since the indictment on claims of a “witch hunt.” He has assailed the Manhattan district attorney, egged on supporters to protest and claimed that the judge presiding over the case “hates me” — something his own lawyer has said is not true.
Trump is scheduled to return to his Palm Beach, Florida, home, Mar-a-Lago, on Tuesday evening to hold a rally. At least 500 prominent supporters have been invited, with some of the most pro-Trump congressional Republicans expected to attend.
A conviction would not prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
Inside the Manhattan courtroom, prosecutors led by New York’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, are expected to unseal the indictment issued last week by a grand jury. That’s when Trump and his defense lawyers will get their first glimpse of the precise allegations against him.
The indictment contains multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press last week.
After the arraignment, Trump is expected to be released by authorities because the charges against him don’t require that bail be set.
The investigation is scrutinizing six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.
The arraignment will unfold against the backdrop of heavy security in New York, coming more than two years after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to halt the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s win.
Though police said they had no intelligence suggesting any violence was likely, they were on high alert for any potential disruptions.
“While there may be some rabble rousers thinking of coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves,” Mayor Eric Adams said. He also singled out Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress, who is organizing a rally Tuesday at a park across from the courthouse: “While you’re in town, be on your best behavior,” Adams said.
Trump pollster John McLaughlin said the former president would approach the day with “dignity.”
“He will be a gentleman,” McLaughlin said. “He’ll show strength and he’ll show dignity and … we’ll get through this and win the election.”
Trump was also defiant. He used his social media network to lash out at Biden, suggesting the president should be facing legal troubles of his own.
Despite that, the scenes around Trump Tower and the courthouse where Trump will stand before a judge were mostly quiet. There were some arguments, but police tried to keep protesters supporting the former president and those opposing him apart, confining them to separate sides of the nearby park using metal barricades.
One demonstrator hoisted a sign reading “Trump or death 1776 2024,” but others carried placards showed images of Trump in prison. The dueling sentiments also played out on nearby posts, were one flier urged passers-by to donate to help fund Trump’s presidential library and another showed a shouting Trump behind bars — together with police signs instructing that no parking was allowed near the area.
The public fascination with the case was evident Monday as national television carried live images of Trump’s motorcade traveling from his Mar-a-Lago club to a private, red, white and blue Boeing 757 stenciled with his name. From there, Trump was flown to New York, where cameras followed his motorcade into Manhattan and he spent the night at Trump Tower as he prepared to turn himself in.
Trump and his team asked the judge in a Monday filing to ban photo and video coverage of the arraignment.
Though prosecutors routinely insist that no person is above the law, bringing criminal charges against a former president carries instant logistical complications.
New York’s ability to carry out safe and drama-free courthouse proceedings in a case involving an ex-president could be an important test case as prosecutors in Atlanta and Washington conduct their own investigations of Trump that could also result in charges. Those investigations concern efforts to undo the 2020 election results as well as the possible mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Top Republicans, including some of Trump’s potential rivals in next year’s GOP presidential primary, have criticized the case against him. Biden, who has yet to formally announce that he’s seeking reelection next year, and other leading Democrats have largely had little to say about it.
Prosecutors insist their case against Trump has nothing to do with politics.