For a while, it appeared that the Manhattan DA may have decided not to pursue charges against Trump after all the fiasco that happened last week- but the news from the DA’s office yesterday evening sure changed everything. And the one person most surprised about the indictment yesterday was Trump himself.
The decision by the Manhattan DA to indict ex-president Trump is monumental and will most likely lead to a protracted legal battle between the prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers. The Manhattan DA’s office has confirmed that it is coordinating with Trump’s attorneys for his surrender. The exact charge or charges remain under seal. Still, the Grand jury has conducted an exhaustive investigation related to the payment made by Trump’s former lawyer to adult porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Initially, Daniels stated that she had never had an affair with Trump, but that was because she had signed a NDA. Trump has denied any involvement with Daniels and, like all his legal troubles, claims that it is just another political persecution by the democrats.
One thing is for sure is that the final decision by the Grand Jury to indict Trump is most likely based on solid evidence; Trump’s scheme to pay the porn star came to light when he was in the White House in 2016.
But what will happen now?
In general, once an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury, the charges usually remain confidential and sealed until the indictment is submitted to the court. The DA will usually notify the defendant and arrange for his or her surrender.
Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA, has confirmed that his office has made contact with Trump’s lawyer to coordinate his surrender and arraignment. Trump’s lawyers have indicated that they need more time because of the logistics of moving Trump and his entourage of Secret Service from Florida to New York.
However, anecdotal reports indicate that Trump could be arraigned on Tuesday in Manhattan. It is anticipated that the former president will fly to New York on Monday and then be arraigned before Judge Juan Merchan the following day. It is at this time that the indictment charges will be read to him; prosecutors are hoping to keep the proceedings very short.
What makes this case complex is that the former president has been extremely hostile towards the DA prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, and add to this the security concerns, the media frenzy, and Trump’s supporters. However, to avoid all this, the Manhattan DA will most likely keep things discrete and only communicate with Trump’s lawyers.
Because of security concerns, Trump will most likely arrive via a non-public entrance, from where he would then be placed in the custody of law enforcement. After the surrender, the protocol is the same as with all criminal cases; the processing of defendants is done behind closed doors, and this includes obtaining their fingerprints and having their mugshots taken. Then the defendant is taken back to the courtroom for the arraignment.
In court, the presiding judge will go over the list of charges against the former president, after which Trump will be asked to enter a plea. This is not the type of case where the judge will ask for bail- meaning that Trump will then be immediately released. While most judges in federal court do set restrictions on travel for certain defendants, most New York judges do not. The judge will then set a schedule for filing the standard motions, and both parties will discuss turning over the evidence collected by the prosecutors.
It is expected that these motions could take many months, and it is also likely that Trump’s lawyers will move to have the case dismissed or file motions relating to other issues linked to the indictment as well as try to have certain evidence excluded or even request a change of venue.
So far, the evidence collected by the DA’s office and grand jury proceeding are top secret, but ex-president Trump can rest assured that both Stormy Daniels and Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, could be the star witnesses for the prosecution. It was Cohen who played a key role in arranging the money payment to Daniels, and he has already testified twice before the grand jury. In 2018, he pled guilty to federal charges, including violation of campaign finance laws. However, the prosecutors will bring a case with much more solid corroboration rather than just rely on Daniels and Cohen.
If and when the trial takes place, jury selection is going to be a major headache because most people already know the defendant- and the question is can they be impartial and fair? Trump’s lawyers may request for a venue change as they may argue that it may be difficult to find unbiased jurors in this strong democratic city-however, in most cases, such motions are rarely approved by the judge.
Trump still has to agree to come to New York to be arraigned. Known for his penchant for delaying things, America will be waiting in anticipation to determine what happens over the next few days.