On Tuesday, former US President Donald Trump will appear in a Manhattan court to face charges related to falsifying business records in a hush-money investigation. This makes him the first American president to be charged with a crime. Trump is expected to plead not guilty in front of Judge Juan Merchan, who he has questioned the legitimacy of and claimed is hated by the judge. The courtroom will not entertain TV cameras, and only five photographers have been asked to join the proceedings. Mediapersons will be allowed to cover the event, but Merchan has said that there are competing interests, and he understands the gravity of the proceedings.
Trump has hired a new lawyer, Todd Blanche, who will join his legal team Susan Necheles and Joseph Tacopina on Tuesday. Blanche earlier represented Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort in a separate case.
During the hearing, an arraignment will take place, in which the indictment will be formally unsealed, and the charges will be read aloud. Trump could request to waive the public reading. He will be asked how he pleads to the charges, and he will answer “guilty” or “not guilty.” Trump’s attorneys and the judge will work with the district attorney’s office to set a date for the next time he’d be back in court.
Trump will get booked before he goes before a judge. Before computers, information on every criminal suspect would be written down in a big book kept by court officials. Now, it’s all computerized, but the process is largely the same. Court officers will take down Trump’s full name, age, birthdate, height and weight. They’ll check to see if he has any outstanding warrants and take his fingerprints. Officers will roll each fingertip on a computerized system that records the prints. They may take his photo, known as a mug shot. In New York, this process usually takes about two hours, but can be as long as four.
Technically, Trump will be considered under arrest and in custody when he’s fingerprinted and processed. However, he won’t be handcuffed, and he won’t sit in a jail cell, in part because parts of the courthouse will be cleared out for his arraignment, and because Trump is a former president with Secret Service protection.
It’s unlikely that people will get to see him going into court, unless he wants to be seen. The report pointed out that there are underground entrances, side doors, and tunnels in and around the Manhattan courthouse. New York’s bail laws have been overhauled over the past few years, meaning Trump would be released without bail because the anticipated charges against him don’t require that bail be set. However, it’s possible that Judge Juan Merchan could decide that Trump is a flight risk and order him held in custody, with or without bail.
The judge and legal teams will set dates for the next hearing and deadlines for discovery, in which the district attorney’s office must turn over all its information to Trump’s lawyers, and motions, which include any requests to shift the venue or dismiss the case outright. This process usually takes months.