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Trump to appear before New York court on Tuesday to face hush money charge

Oxon Hill, Maryland – 5 March 2023
Oxon Hill, Maryland – 5 March 2023 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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Former US President Donald Trump will be arraigned Tuesday after his indictment in Manhattan, his formal surrender and arrest presenting the historic, shocking scene of a former US leader forced to stand before a judge.

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In the first criminal case against a former president, Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, a historic reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, political and business dealings and an abrupt jolt to his bid to retake the White House.

The exact nature of the charges is still unclear because the indictment remained under seal, but they stem from payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter.

Court officials have confirmed he will be arraigned next Tuesday.

Prosecutors for months scrutinized money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whom he feared would go public, with claims that they had extramarital sexual encounters with him.

For any New York defendant, poor or powerful, answering criminal charges means being fingerprinted and photographed, fielding basic questions such as name and birthdate, and getting arraigned. All told, defendants are typically detained for at least several hours.

There can be variations in where the different steps happen, how long they take, whether handcuffs come out and other particulars. A lot depends on the severity of the case and whether defendants arrange to turn themselves in.

The ex-president is not expected to be handcuffed at will most certainly be released on the same day.

But there is no playbook for booking an ex-president with US Secret Service protection. Agents are tasked with the protection of former presidents unless and until they say they don’t need it. Trump has kept his detail, so agents would need to be by his side at all times.

“This would be a unique outlier,” said Jeremy Saland, a defence lawyer and former prosecutor in Manhattan.

The New York Police Department doesn't publicly release mug shots, though some have leaked in the past. It's unclear whether Trump would try to have the picture released himself, for political or other reasons.

Prosecutors did not say whether they intended to seek prison time in the event of a conviction, a development that wouldn’t prevent Trump from seeking and assuming the presidency in the future.

"Legally speaking, this case won't affect the 2024 presidential race," said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor.

"If Trump wins, of course, and no sitting president can be prosecuted, so the case will have to stop. But even if Trump is convicted before the election, these charges don't disqualify him from holding public office."

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly assailed the investigation, called the indictment “political persecution” aimed at damaging his presidential campaign and predicted it would scare Democrats in 2024.

In a statement confirming the charges, defence lawyers Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina said Trump “did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

President Biden stays mum

President Joe Biden set the tone for his administration’s approach to his successor's indictment Friday with a firm refusal to comment on the case.

Vice President Kamala Harris and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre separately refused. Both told reporters that the decision is tied to the ongoing nature of the case against Trump.

“Look, we’re just not going to comment on any ongoing case, and I will just leave it there,” Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One en route to Mississippi, where the president toured recent storm damage.

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District Attorney defends inquiry

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office defended the unprecedented criminal case against Trump in a letter to House Republicans, calling their repeated criticism of the investigation “unnecessary and unjustified."

The letter, the only substantial public comment on the case to come from Bragg’s office since Thursday’s indictment, is the latest back-and-forth between Trump’s allies in Congress and the prosecutor leading the Manhattan case.

“Even worse, based on your reportedly close collaboration with Mr. Trump in attacking this Office and the grand jury process, it appears you are acting more like criminal defense counsel trying to gather evidence for a client than a legislative body seeking to achieve a legitimate legislative objective,” general counsel Leslie Dubeck wrote to three Republican chairmen in a letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Reps. Jim Jordan, James Comer and Bryan Steil have criticized the grand jury investigation as an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

The chairmen had requested testimony as well as documents and copies of any communications with the Justice Department.

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Bragg did not answer reporters' questions on the indictment against Trump on Friday morning after he attended a high-profile sentencing hearing in an unrelated case.

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