Anti-Trump demonstrators protest outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in New York City on March 21, 2023.
Leonardo Munoz | AFP | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump said he expects to be arrested by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is in the final stages of an investigation into a hush-hush payment made to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election.
But even if the grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation votes for an indictment, it’s unclear when Trump will be arrested. Trump predicted he would be arrested on Tuesday, which arrived and left without incident. Multiple news outletciting law enforcement sources and people close to Trump’s legal team, reported Monday that they do not expect an arrest or first appearance to take place before next week.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused the DA, Alvin Bragg, of conducting a politically motivated prosecution against him, a leading Republican presidential candidate. He called on his supporters to protest against possible criminal charges.
If an indictment is returned, Trump would become the first former president in US history to face criminal charges — and under the unprecedented circumstances, Trump’s possible arrest could play out in a number of ways.
Here’s how the process might go:
The grand jury was empaneled in January to determine whether there was enough evidence in Bragg’s investigation to charge Trump with a crime. It was Trump invited to appear before a grand jury earlier this month, a move seen as one of the last steps before the investigation ends. Trump refused to testify.
If the grand jury votes for an indictment, it will first be filed under seal, and it can remain that way until the time Trump is brought before a judge. It can also be unsealed earlier by a judge presiding over the matter.
Trump’s lawyers will be notified of the indictment and a surrender date will be determined. That time is negotiable: It could be a day or two after the indictment, or it could be further.
“Usually these things are pretty well coordinated with the defense attorneys,” said Michael Bachner, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer and former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office’s Rackets Bureau.
Given Trump’s recent calls for protests, prosecutors may have an incentive to give Trump a shorter surrender date, Bachner said.
Trump, who has spent much of his post-presidency time at his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Palm Beach, Florida, is likely to travel directly to the district attorney’s office in lower Manhattan to turn himself in.
While Trump could technically have a way to challenge the extradition in New York, that move is considered highly unlikely.
“It is not appropriate for Trump to run and hide from state to state,” wrote Jeremy Saland, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney. Escaping the charges “would blow his image of virile masculinity worse than a horseless, shirtless Vladimir Putin,” Saland added.
Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said last week that Trump would follow normal procedure if he were indicted.
Once at the DA’s office, Trump will be formally arrested, fingerprinted, mugshot taken and interviewed by DA detectives for an arrest report. He will also be asked for what is called pedigree information, which is the defendant’s personal information, including his name, address and date of birth.
After being booked, Trump will be taken to a courtroom for his arraignment.
Generally, a defendant is handcuffed at the time he is brought to the courthouse and uncuffed at the time the court proceedings begin.
But some news outlets, citing sources familiar with the matter, have reported that Trump could avoid an infamous “perp walk” — having to walk down the courthouse hallway in handcuffs in front of the press — to attend his arraignment.
Trump is being protected by US Secret Service agents who plan to stay with him throughout the process of his possible arrest in New York, NBC News reported Monday. Those agents will work to keep Trump out of public view while he is booked, a former agency official told NBC.
At the arraignment, Trump will be informed of the charges against him and asked to plead guilty or not guilty — not guilty is the more likely option — or have his attorney enter a plea on his behalf.
Lawyers and judges may also have a discussion about the presentation of evidence in the case.
Because any potential criminal charges at play are no violence by nature, Trump is likely to be released on his own recognizance, meaning he will not have to post bail.
“I don’t think bail is really an issue here,” said Lance Fletcher, a criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor.
If Trump is released without any bail or other unforeseen restrictions, he could return to his Florida residence the same day.
“He’s not a flight risk,” Bachner said. “Everyone knows his face.”
Follow our live coverage of the grand jury weighing charges against the Donald Trump.