Published: 2023-04-04 10:58
Last Updated: 2023-09-29 09:03
Donald Trump arrived at his New York skyscraper on Monday on the eve of his surrender to face unprecedented criminal charges that threaten to throw the entire 2024 White House race into turmoil.
The 76-year-old Republican, the first US president ever to be criminally indicted, will be formally charged Tuesday over hush money paid to a porn star during the 2016 election that brought him to power.
Trump waved at supporters as he walked into his Trump Tower residence on Fifth Avenue under tight security just before 4:15 pm (2015 GMT) after flying from Florida -- a historic journey given wall-to-wall live coverage on US television, with network helicopters tracking his motorcade.
Trump will be arraigned in a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday afternoon, amid a media frenzy, and is expected to try to use his appearance to rouse support for his reelection bid.
"THEY'RE NOT COMING AFTER ME, THEY'RE COMING AFTER YOU -- I'M JUST STANDING IN THEIR WAY!" Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, one of a dozen posts made en route from his Florida mansion to New York.
Police in the city were on high alert with security cordons and Secret Service agents outside both Trump Tower and the court in Lower Manhattan.
Mayor Eric Adams warned anyone protesting violently will be "arrested and held accountable, no matter who you are."
"While there may be some rabble rousers thinking about coming to our city tomorrow our message is clear, is simple: 'control yourselves'," the mayor told a press conference, adding that there were no specific, credible threats.
As part of his arraignment, Trump would normally undergo the standard booking procedure of being fingerprinted and photographed, which if so would result in one of the most famous mugshots of the modern era.
- 'Up in the air' -
But there is no roadmap for a former president's surrender to court authorities, and it remains to be seen whether the famously unpredictable Trump will follow the script, or find a way to upend events.
"It's all up in the air," Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said on CNN, adding that a "perp walk" -- in which a defendant is escorted in handcuffs past media cameras -- is unlikely for an ex-president under US Secret Service protection.
Trump is girding for battle and will plead not guilty, Tacopina added.
After the hearing, Trump is due to return straight to Florida, where he plans to deliver an evening speech.
A grand jury indicted Trump last week in the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat.
The specific charges will be revealed during Tuesday's hearing. They revolve around the investigation of $130,000 paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just days before Trump's election win.
Trump's former lawyer and aide Michael Cohen, who has since turned against his ex-boss, says he arranged the payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about a tryst she says she had with Trump in 2006.
Trump, whose third wife Melania had recently given birth at the time, denies the affair.
Legal experts have suggested that if not properly accounted for, the payment could result in misdemeanor charges for falsifying business records that could be raised to felonies if it was intended to cover up a campaign finance violation.
- Republicans unite? -
Trump is facing several criminal investigations at the state and federal level over possible wrongdoing that threaten his new run at the White House.
They include his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state of Georgia, his handling of classified documents, and his possible involvement in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Republicans have largely rallied around Trump, including his rival in the party's presidential primary, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who called the indictment "un-American."
But some Republicans bristled at the prospect of a twice-impeached president facing multiple legal probes seeking the party's nomination.
President Joe Biden, mindful of anything he might say could fuel Trump's complaints of a politically "weaponized" judicial system, is one of the few Democrats holding back over the indictment of his political rival.
Asked during a visit to a Minnesota factory Monday whether he had faith in the legal system, Biden simply replied, "Yes."
Some observers believe the indictment bodes ill for Trump's 2024 chances, while others say it could boost his support.
"I think the Democratic Party is doing this just for election interference," 71-year-old Trump supporter Vito Dichiara told AFP outside Trump Tower.
New Yorker Lea Sturley said: "I think it's important that we understand that this is not about sides. It's about justice."
A CNN poll Monday found 94 percent of Democrats approved of the decision to indict Trump, while 79 percent of Republicans disapproved.