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Donald Trump Has Been Indicted. Here’s What Happens Next in the Process

8 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted over alleged hush money payments. He now becomes the first former President to face criminal charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement Thursday night that, “this evening, we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender.”

The charges so far remain under seal, but the investigation centers around cash paid to pornographic film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 before Trump’s election win. Daniels says she had an affair with Trump; Trump denies this.

As part of Bragg’s investigation, Trump could face charges for falsifying business records when he allegedly reimbursed his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen for paying off Daniels. The hush-money deal, allegedly crafted weeks before his presidential win, could also put Trump in jeopardy of violating campaign finance laws. Democrats worry that it may be a weak case against Trump, compared to other investigations into the former President. Political commentators are wondering whether an indictment could help Trump’s 2024 campaign if he can successfully paint the case as a political witch hunt.

Read More: What Trump Has Said About Stormy Daniels

But Trump’s impending legal battle raises questions about the process Trump would be subject to during his arrest and trial—including whether any extraordinary measures would be taken given his unique status. “This is not just high profile. This was the President of the United States. There’s been nobody like him to walk those halls,” Jeremy Saland, defense attorney and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, says.

Prior to the indictment, TIME spoke with legal experts about each step of the process, and how the charges against Trump might proceed differently from run-of-the-mill white-collar crime cases.

The arrest

The charges Trump faces are for white-collar crimes regarding financial dealings, and given their non-violent nature, defendants in such cases typically “self-surrender,” skipping public perp walks.

One of Trump’s lawyers, Susan R. Necheles, told TIME that former President Trump is expected to turn himself in on Tuesday to be arraigned in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Shanlon Wu, a white-collar defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, tells TIME that defense counsels typically receive notice when their white-collar clients are being indicted. “You would make an appointment basically, to bring your client in to be booked and fingerprinted,” Wu says.

Wu adds that Trump’s lawyers may even seek some special arrangements, given he’s a former president, to avoid walking through the front entrance of the courthouse or police station in an attempt to be more discreet. Another of Trump’s attorneys had previously said that if indicted, Trump would not resist arrest and that they would follow normal procedures. “There won’t be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago with Secret Service and the Manhattan DA’s office,” Joe Tacopina told the New York Daily News.

But some have speculated that Trump could take a completely different approach, facing the arrest publicly and choosing to send a message of political victimization to his supporters. “He sort of embraces the angst, divisiveness and excitement,” Saland says.

In a post on Truth Social on March 18, Trump claimed his arrest was imminent and called for his supporters to protest, citing “illegal leaks” from a “corrupt” and “highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office.”

Saland says he thinks that when Trump began talking about his indictment on March 18—predicting it would come the following Tuesday—he was trying to get ahead of the scandal and send a message that, “I’m gonna show up in court, and I’m gonna face this head on, because there’s a conspiracy against me.”

Although Trump’s legal team could probably arrange for a discreet processing appointment, they have the choice to go through his arrest, booking, and processing publicly if they think it may benefit his image.

“I would fully expect that he’s not going to slink away, he’s not going to hide and be discreet, he’s going to own it. and he’s going to turn it around and use it as a sword and a shield; ‘Yes, I have been arrested. Yes, I have been indicted by a grand jury. Yes. Prosecutors are unethical. Yes, this is a witch hunt,’” Saland says. “Something to that effect.”

However, some of the procedures will likely remain the same, no matter Trump’s status as the 45th president of the United States. He will be booked, finger-printed, and have a “mug shot” taken. With Trump’s substantial ties to the community, especially his ongoing 2024 presidential campaign, the judge likely wouldn’t deem him a flight risk, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tells TIME. Given the white-collar charges Trump would likely be confronting, he may not even face bond, just released on his own recognizance per New York law.

Security measures

Law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level have been working to prepare the Manhattan Criminal Court for Trump’s indictment, NBC News reported March 17, citing anonymous sources. The New York Police Department, New York State Court Officers, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Secret Service, and the FBI are all involved, according to NBC.

Wu doesn’t anticipate many unusual logistics in the procedures if Trump is indicted but believes that security would be heightened—similar to measures for other high-profile political figures or celebrities. “Sometimes we see a huge flood of cameras and reporters at the front of the courthouse,” he says. “With a former president, the Secret Service would probably have some screening mechanism for that, because otherwise, you don’t know who’s in the crowd.”

“Court security may also set up a sort of a barrier zone, meaning there’s going to be ‘X’ amount of feet, where people can walk through and there won’t be any reporters sticking microphones in their faces,” Wu adds that there would probably be limits to how many people are allowed in the courtroom.

“It’s a public forum, anybody should be able to come into a courthouse, but there are screening techniques you have to go through to make sure there’s no metal detected,” Saland says. “They have to make sure he’s safe. They don’t want him sitting among a whole bunch of people. That’s not a controllable atmosphere. I would expect there’s going to be barriers even internally.”


If Trump is arraigned and officially charged, the case would eventually move on to jury selection, which could be a lengthy and exhausting process.

“The majority of people in the jury pool would have some opinions about Donald Trump,” former federal prosecutor Mariotti says. “Most defendants, even if they’re famous, are often not known by prospective jurors or they don’t have a certain opinion about that person. I think it’s safe to say that Donald Trump is different.”

During jury selection the prosecution and the defense use voir dire questioning, meaning they can ask each prospective juror questions about their qualifications and knowledge of the case, in an attempt to ensure fair and impartial jurors.

Wu thinks a judge could opt to issue a so-called “gag order,” restricting all parties from talking to the press. “This is gonna get so much publicity anyway if he’s charged,” Wu says. “It’d be very hard to find jurors who haven’t been exposed to the news.” Although rarely used, one method to combat this is for a judge to sequester jurors, limiting their exposure to outside influence or information.

“If this case is still ongoing, during his run for president, you could face a very unprecedented and challenging situation,” Mariotti says. “[Trump] would be subject to a criminal enforcement action by a state, which would pose a lot of serious constitutional quandaries.”

Many legal experts have been hesitant to speculate what an indictment against Trump would mean, wary of using prior cases as a reflection because of how unique these circumstances are.

“Anyone who knows what’s likely to happen if/when Trump is indicted is not credible. He’s not ‘high profile.’ He’s a former POTUS with a Secret Service detail,” Peter Zeidenberg, a government enforcement attorney, tells TIME. “It’s not similar to any other cases/defendants.”

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