Los Angeles Politics

Donald Trump to be arraigned in alleged hush money case

Former President Trump will be arraigned Tuesday in New York, with new details expected about charges he faces stemming from an alleged 2016 hush money scheme and potentially other matters.

Trump traveled from Florida to New York on Monday with his Secret Service detail and political and legal teams, including newly hired lead counsel Todd Blanche, a top white-collar criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. Supporters and protesters awaited the former president behind steel barricades when he arrived at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.

Trump was indicted last week by the Manhattan grand jury following an investigation into a $130,000 payment made by his former attorney Michael D. Cohen to adult film actor Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. The money was allegedly paid to prevent Daniels from publicly saying she had an affair with Trump.

The former president has been accused of later hiding a reimbursement and further compensation to Cohen by funneling those payments through his business and recording them as legal services. Cohen did not perform legal work for Trump while he was in the White House.

Despite the heavy focus on Daniels, the charges could extend further into the Trump organization and possibly include a separate payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to felonies related to the alleged hush money payments to Daniels and spent three years in prison, is expected to be a key witness if the case goes to trial. His lawyer, Lanny Davis, told CNN on Sunday that Cohen provided Manhattan prosecutors with “substantial documentation” of the payments to Daniels and McDougal to support his testimony.

Trump is expected to be processed Tuesday like any other defendant — which could include a mug shot and fingerprinting — directly before being arraigned around 2:15 p.m. Eastern. No other judicial proceedings will be allowed on the same floor where Trump will appear before Judge Juan Merchan, and the courtroom is not open to the public. Trump is likely to be released without bail.

The former president has said he plans to return to Florida following the arraignment and is expected to give a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on Tuesday evening.

Trump has a history of leveling unfounded criticism of judges and district attorneys when he’s in legal trouble. On his Truth Social platform, he has called Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg, who is Black, an “animal” and “racist,” and has also attacked Merchan, who oversaw a separate case involving the Trump Organization.

It’s unclear whether his legal team will be able to convince Trump to avoid such rhetoric during his speech at Mar-a-Lago. On Monday evening, Trump unleashed another tirade against Bragg on Truth Social, accusing him of leaking information from the indictment, which has not been unsealed.

“This means that he MUST BE IMMEDIATELY INDICTED. Now, if he wants to really clean up his reputation, he will do the honorable thing and, as District Attorney, INDICT HIMSELF,” Trump wrote.

Last month, Trump warned of “potential death and destruction” if he was indicted, and law enforcement agencies are on high alert in New York and around the country. President Biden told reporters Monday that he is confident police can handle any unrest.

Trump has announced a campaign for president in 2024, and his Republican allies have sought to portray Bragg’s investigation as a politically motivated effort to interfere in the election. The probe was initiated in 2018, but was repeatedly placed on the back burner by other prosecutors.

The former president is also facing separate federal investigations into his alleged involvement in 2020 election interference by his supporters and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, along with his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed in November by U.S. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, has convened grand juries to hear from witnesses in both of the federal investigations, including most recently members of Trump’s Secret Service detail.

Trump also faces possible state-level election interference charges in Georgia. Fulton County Dist. Atty. Fani Willis is weighing potential indictments related to Trump’s attempts to change Georgia voting results after the 2020 election.

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Joseph Hernandez

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