New York: Former President Donald Trump surrendered on Tuesday at a local court here, making history as the first former holder of the US’ highest office to be arrested.
He will now face charges stemming from a payoff to a porn star to buy her silence.
After he was booked like a common crime suspect — except he was not handcuffed or paraded around — he was waiting to be taken before New York State’s Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to be formally charged.
Given his status, the arrest took place under the watchful eye of the Secret Service that is charged with protecting former presidents making it an odd scenario.
Trump came in a convoy from his Trump Tower penthouse four miles away to the building housing the local courts as his supporters and opponents held separate rallies.
He was taken in through a side entrance.
Trump became the first former President to be arrested and face a trial in the nation’s 246-year history, plunging the US into unchartered legal and political territory.
He is also a candidate for next year’s presidential election, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, and only two per cent behind President Joe Biden in an aggregation of polls by RealClear Politics.
Trump is facing charges relating to a payoff he allegedly made before the 2016 election through his former lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels who claimed to have had an affair with him in 2006.
Cohen was convicted in a federal court in connection with the $130,000 payoffs and sentenced to three years. Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute Trump.
Cohen is the prime witness in the local New York case.
The charges, handed down by a grand jury – a panel of citizens convened to decide if there was a prima facie case – are under seal and will be unsealed shortly in court.
Since hush money payments and extra-martial affairs are not illegal, it is likely that the charges will be about bookkeeping irregularities in how they were recorded and if they can be made out to be in violation of campaign finance laws.
Some leaks reported by the media have said that Trump will be bludgeoned with over two dozen charges, some of them serious criminal allegations or felonies with a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
In a social media post, Trump asked Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg to charge himself for violating the laws against disclosure of a sealed indictment before it is released in court.
Trump’s lawyers have said that he will fight the charges at the trial that will be months away.
Bragg, a Democrat elected prosecutor in a partisan election, is to hold a news conference in the afternoon after Trump is produced before Merchan, whom Trump had personally attacked saying, “He hates me”.
Trump is scheduled to fly back to his home in Mar-a-Lago in Florida on his private Boeing 757 after his arraignment in court and hold a meeting there later.
The city was under a blanket of heavy security with police on the alert.
Areas around Trump Towers and the courthouses were barricaded with steel fences and police buses.
Screaming protesters trading insults across a barrier were kept apart by police.
Trump had warned of “potential death and destruction” after the indictment was announced on Thursday.
The protest outside the courthouse was called by a right-wing Republican member of the House of Representatives, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known for her extreme rhetoric, drawing a warning from Mayor Eric Adams, “”When you’re in town, be on your best behaviour”.
Greene’s speech was drowned out by anti-Trump protesters.
So far, the protests have been in a carnival atmosphere with even a dancing semi nude anti-Trump protester shouting foul-mouthed challenges to him.
There was no rioting like the attack on Congress in January 2021 by his supporters buying into Trump’s claims that President Biden had “stolen” the election.