Former President Donald Trump is expected to turn himself in to New York authorities and make his first appearance in state court Tuesday to face criminal charges related to a hush-money payment to a porn star.
Mr. Trump, who spent the night at Trump Tower, is expected to arrive midday at the Manhattan courthouse, where he will be formally booked and fingerprinted, as any other criminal defendant who surrenders in New York. But his case is anything but routine: No former president before Mr. Trump had been charged with a crime, and not since a police officer stopped Ulysses S. Grant for speeding in his horse-drawn buggy in 1872 has a current or former president been arrested.
Mr. Trump won’t be handcuffed, and he will be guarded by Secret Service agents at all times, even in court, officials said. Mr. Trump is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m., and is expected to enter a not guilty plea during a brief appearance in the 15th floor courtroom of Justice Juan Merchan. He is then scheduled to return to his estate in Florida, where he will give a speech in the evening.
“While we do not comment on specific protective means or methods, we will not seek any special accommodations outside of what would be required to provide the highest level of safety for the former president,” a Secret Service spokesman said.
Mr. Trump, who is running for a second term in the White House, has called the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg politically motivated and has said a fair trial in this largely Democratic city of 8.5 million people would be impossible. Mr. Trump grew up in New York and from his perch on the 26th floor of Trump Tower sought to embellish his reputation as a highly successful billionaire developer. These days, Mr. Trump spends most of his time at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., and rarely visits New York, where the former Republican president is shunned more than he is embraced.
The charges against Mr. Trump are expected to be unsealed Tuesday afternoon, providing the first public view of a case that Mr. Bragg’s office began presenting to a grand jury in late January. The grand jury voted to indict Mr. Trump on Thursday, but criminal charges in New York’s trial courts generally remain under wraps until defendants make their initial court appearance.
The indictment may be one of most anticipated legal documents in recent history, but much of the conduct it is expected to describe has been known for years.
In the final stretch of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, his special counsel at the Trump Organization paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter that Ms. Daniels said she had with Mr. Trump a decade earlier.
Mr. Trump, who denies the sexual encounter, later reimbursed lawyer Michael Cohen in monthly increments disguised in the Trump Organization’s books as legal fees, federal prosecutors alleged in the 2018 prosecution of Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty that year to a campaign-finance violation related to his payment to Ms. Daniels and other crimes. He told a federal court and Congress that Mr. Trump directed the hush money, and Mr. Cohen is expected to be a chief witness for the Manhattan district attorney’s office if the case goes to trial.
Another 2016 payment may figure into the case. Mr. Trump’s ally in the tabloid world agreed in August of that year to pay a former Playboy centerfold $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story of an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. David Pecker, the former chief executive of publisher American Media Inc., told the grand jury that he bought Karen McDougal’s story at Mr. Trump’s request to make sure that it never saw the light of day, according to people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Trump denies he had an affair with Ms. McDougal.
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to coordinating with Messrs. Pecker and Trump on the McDougal deal, which federal prosecutors said amounted to an illegal contribution to Mr. Trump’s campaign. Mr. Pecker would also likely be a prosecution witness at trial.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have indicated that they will try to get the charges dismissed long before Messrs. Cohen or Pecker would be called to testify. Failing that, they will have to prepare Mr. Trump for a trial that could unfold during the height of the 2024 presidential campaign. His lawyers have said a plea deal is out of the question.
The case will remove Mr. Trump from the campaign trail for court appearances and may happen out of range of cameras and microphones. New York is an outlier among the states in banning live television and radio coverage of cases in trial court, according to The Fund for Modern Courts, a group that advocates for court transparency in New York.