Delicate negotiations underway over Trump’s potential arrest next week
New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is engaged in delicate negotiations with the Secret Service over how to handle the potential arrest of former President Donald Trump next week on charges of making a payment illegal to a porn star to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual affair. deal, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Trump posted a social media message on Saturday saying he expected to be arrested on Tuesday. He called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION!”
Although the president’s attorneys have been told an indictment could come as soon as Tuesday, the charges are more likely to be filed later in the week, the source said. Prosecutors still want to put one more witness before the grand jury before closing the case.
The main question right now is how to develop procedures for an extraordinary and unprecedented scenario: how to arrest, fingerprint and, according to standard procedure, handcuff an accused who happens to be a former president and is protected by a group of Secret Service agents. .
That question is now before Bragg as his prosecutors negotiate with the Secret Service and other federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department, over how to handle Trump’s arrest. in a context of heightened security concerns.
Under standard procedures, once charged, a defendant like Trump would be escorted into the New York courthouse in lower Manhattan and taken to a processing room, where he would be briefly placed in a jail cell, booked, with his fingerprints, photographed for a photo ID. and handcuffed. He would then be escorted by elevator to an upper floor, where he would be taken in handcuffs to a courtroom for his arraignment in full view of the media – the equivalent of a “perp walk”.
But Trump is not the standard defendant. By law, he is protected at all times by Secret Service agents. Prosecutors are still debating whether Trump should be allowed to have Secret Service agents, rather than court security, escort him into the courtroom without handcuffs. Prosecutors and New York police are also trying to map out a host of security issues, including fears that a “crazy job” inside the public courtroom is seeking to disrupt proceedings, a said the source.
Final resolution of this and related issues will rest with Bragg, but the source said the situation is still “fluid”, with major questions unresolved.
For many legal experts, even bigger questions remain about the strength of Bragg’s case. It’s about $130,000 in payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to former porn actress Stormy Daniels late in the 2016 campaign when she threatened to go public. an alleged sexual alliance with Trump 10 years earlier.
The payment, arranged by Cohen after consulting with Trump, was listed internally within the Trump Organization as a “legal fee” – a description that Bragg’s prosecutors should charge illegality under a law of the State. New York State prohibiting the falsification of business documents.
But that charge is a misdemeanor unless it can be shown to be part of an underlying crime. To bolster this case and turn the indictment into a felony, prosecutors are preparing to argue that the payment was made to Daniels to influence the 2016 election and was therefore a violation of state election law. of New York, as an undeclared contribution by Trump to his own campaign.
But this remains an untested legal theory. Contributions to presidential campaigns are governed by federal election law and it is unclear whether New York’s election laws can be extended to include expenses in a presidential race.
The source familiar with the matter acknowledged that Trump’s lawyers are likely to challenge the indictment on these and other grounds, and that a judge could ultimately agree and “revert to a misdemeanor.”