Trump's Indictment: All Your Questions Answered

How do indictments work? And can Trump still run for president?

This story was originally published on April 3, 2023 at 1:18PM. We will be continuously updating this with news.

Donald Trump is set to make history on Tuesday by being the first former President to turn himself in to be arraigned on criminal charges.

The arraignment comes less than a week after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump. The charges are not yet publicly known, as the indictment remains under seal.

Here are answers to some common questions about the Trump indictment and what happens next.

Trump pleaded not guilty. What happens now?

What do the charges say?

What does indictment mean?

Can Trump still run for president?

How does an arraignment work?

Will there be a mug shot of Trump?

What about the other investigations?

How are Republicans reacting?

How is New York preparing for security risks around Trump’s arraignment?

When will Trump’s indictment be unsealed?

Who are the key figures surrounding Trump’s indictment?

When will Trump appear in court next?

Are there any restrictions on Trump after his arrest?

Trump pleaded not guilty. What happens now?

After Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of felony falsifying business records, he was released from custody on his own recognizance—meaning he did not have to post bail in order to be released. This is standard practice for white-collar offenses, per New York law.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to file motions disputing the charges filed by prosecutors. They have 45 days following the arraignment to present pre-trial motions. They could ask for the case to be dismissed, a reduction in charges, or ask to prevent certain evidence from being presented at the trial. Common motions often ask the judge to dismiss the case in the interest of justice or because evidence against the defendant was obtained illegally by law enforcement.

In the time leading up to a potential trial, Trump’s defense lawyers and the DA’s office will engage in discovery, exchanging information including physical evidence and copies of written or verbal statements. The prosecutor has to provide some information within 15 days of the arraignment, but other material may not come until just before the trial starts.

Trump’s attorney can also attempt plea bargaining with the prosecutor to avoid a trial altogether—though Trump’s lawyer has indicated he will not plead guilty. Even if a trial commences, the attorneys can work out a plea at any point until the verdict is decided. A plea requires the judge’s approval.

One of Trump’s standard legal maneuvers is to draw out and delay a case. Legal experts expect the trial will not take place until after the 2024 presidential election—meaning that it will likely loom over Trump’s campaign for the rest of the election cycle.—Anisha Kohli

What do the charges say?

Manhattan prosecutors accused Trump of repeatedly creating false entries in his business records, unveiling 34 felony charges that related to how Trump and his company falsely accounted for payments to his attorney Michael Cohen in 2017.

The charges relate to hush money payments Trump made to reimburse intermediaries for silencing three people who claimed to have dirt on the businessman in the runup to the 2016 election: The first two are believed to be former porn star Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal—both of whom claimed to have affairs with Trump. (He denies this.) The third payment relates to a doorman who claimed he had information about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock. Documents filed by prosecutors indicate the doorman’s story was false.

Under New York law, the falsification of business records is typically only a misdemeanor. But Bragg’s office bumped up all the charges to low-level felonies on the grounds that the conduct was intended to conceal another underlying crime: the use of those funds to advance Trump’s presidential campaign allegedly in violation of campaign finance laws.

The reimbursement to Cohen stemmed from a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment, which Cohen says he made at Trump’s direction, ensured the porn star would not go public with her story.

The indictment also details a payoff involving the National Enquirer tabloid, which paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to know that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock. The same tabloid made another payment to Karen McDougal, Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1998, who wanted to sell her story of an affair with Trump. She reached a $150,000 agreement with the Enquirer, which bought the rights to her story to suppress it.

Prosecutors described this as a “catch and kill scheme” to suppress negative stories about Trump “in furtherance of his candidacy for President.” They also noted that two parties engaged in the scheme—Cohen and the National Enquirer publisher—have already “admitted to committing illegal conduct in connection with the scheme.”—Nik Popli

What does indictment mean?

When someone is indicted, it means they are being formally charged with a felony. The indictment has the basic information about the charges a person faces.

Before being indicted, a prosecutor must first present evidence to a grand jury, a 16-23 member group of impartial citizens that decides whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused committed the crime, and whether a trial should occur.

Presenting evidence before a grand jury is a constitutional requirement for certain crimes, including felonies. Grand jury proceedings are all done in private, meaning that witnesses who are called to testify cannot have an attorney present, according to the Department of Justice.

If at least 12 jurors say they believe there is probable cause, the prosecutor then decides whether they want to move forward with the indictment or drop the charges. —Solcyré Burga

Can Trump still run for president?

The short answer is, “Yes.” Even if Trump is convicted, the charges against him will not disqualify his bid for the presidency, legal experts tell TIME.

“There is no constitutional bar on a felon running for office,” says Richard Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA Law School.

The U.S. Constitution only lists three requirements for presidential eligibility: the President must be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years old, and have been a resident of the U.S. for 14 years. States cannot add to these requirements either, such as by barring felons from running for office, meaning there is no legal impediment to Trump continuing his presidential campaign while facing criminal charges—even if he were jailed, legal experts say.

In early March, Trump told reporters that he would “absolutely” stay in the race for president, even if he were to be criminally indicted. “I wouldn’t even think about leaving,” he said. “Probably, it’ll enhance my numbers.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds his cap during arrival at a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25 in Waco, Texas. (Brandon Bell—Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds his cap during arrival at a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25 in Waco, Texas.
Brandon Bell—Getty Images

While Trump is the first former president to be charged with a crime, he’s far from the first presidential candidate to run despite criminal charges. At least two candidates with criminal convictions have even run for president in the past, albeit unsuccessfully. Hasen noted that in 1920 a candidate named Eugene Debs ran for president while in a federal prison in Atlanta as the nominee of the Socialist Party. Another convicted presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche, ran for president in every election between 1976 and 2004.

But while it might be legally possible for Trump to run for president even if he is convicted, a number of practical hurdles could make campaigning more difficult. For example, if he were to be sentenced to jail, that would inhibit his ability to conduct a campaign—but it wouldn’t necessarily inhibit his ability to win, says Saikrishna Prakash, a law professor at the University of Virginia who formerly clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prakash also noted the irony in the electoral system, in which Trump could run for president but be unable to vote for himself, as most states have laws that ban people with felony convictions from voting. In Florida, where Trump lives, a low-level felony conviction would make him ineligible to vote until he has completed all terms of his sentence, or is granted clemency. —NP

How does an arraignment work?

Trump is set to be arraigned Tuesday at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, one of his lawyers, Susan R. Necheles told TIME. Trump’s arraignment will be the first time since he was indicted that he is required to go to court and face a Judge, where he will be told what the charges are against him and he and his defense will enter their plea of guilty or not guilty.

A news headline ticker shows information about the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump by a Manhattan grand jury in New York City on March 31. (Justin Lane—EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
A news headline ticker shows information about the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump by a Manhattan grand jury in New York City on March 31.
Justin Lane—EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

If Trump pleads not guilty, he’ll receive a court date for his trial. If he pleads guilty, the court will decide his punishment in a sentencing. Assuming Trump pleads not guilty, his defense will have 45 days following the arraignment to present pre-trial motions to the court, such as asking the judge to dismiss the case on legal grounds, to reduce the charges or to prevent certain evidence from being used at the trial.

In the time leading up to the trial, Trump’s defense and the DA’s office will engage in discovery, exchanging information including physical evidence and copies of written or verbal statements. Trump’s attorney can also attempt plea bargaining with the prosecutor to avoid a trial altogether. —AK

Will there be a mug shot of Trump?

Per New York state law, Trump was processed by law enforcement upon turning himself in. He faced a dense stack of paperwork and his fingerprints were taken and entered into the state’s database, just like any other defendant—but no portrait, or “mugshot” was taken.

There are a number of theories as to why Trump didn’t have a mugshot, which is standard procedure and unusual to omit. Some legal experts speculated that Trump is recognizable enough to skip the mugshot step. Additionally, it’s not standard for New York to make a mug shot public without a compelling public interest, and there were fears that Trump’s mugshot was likely to leak.

Trump was also already preparing to politicize his mugshot. The former president’s campaign sent an email to supporters that offered t-shirts with a fake Trump mugshot that was available for a $47 donation before the president even left the courthouse.

Multiple fake mugshots began circulating online even before Trump’s arrest, and even more have cropped up since his court appearance Tuesday. —AK

What about the other investigations?

There are a lot of other investigators looking into Trump’s actions.

Prosecutors in Georgia’s Fulton County are exploring Trump’s efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win in the state. On a phone call in January 2021, Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse Biden’s win in the state, according to a recording of the call. Trump and his allies also made unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the state.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump exits after speaking during a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25 in Waco, Texas. (Brandon Bell—Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump exits after speaking during a rally at the Waco Regional Airport on March 25 in Waco, Texas.
Brandon Bell—Getty Images

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has yet to bring charges in the case. She called high-profile Republicans to testify before a special grand jury, including Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. The grand jury also heard from poll workers, technical experts and state employees. Trump himself did not testify in those proceedings. In February, the special grand jury filed a report with the court that concluded there was no widespread voter fraud that would have overturned Biden’s win in Georgia. The grand jury also concluded that some witnesses may have lied under oath.

The former President is also under scrutiny by federal prosecutors. Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith is examining Trump’s involvement in the handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence, and his actions to reverse the election results leading up to the deadly siege of the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. Smith has interviewed multiple witnesses close to Trump in the investigation so far.

Trump is also being investigated for alleged financial fraud in New York State. Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit in September against Trump, as well as his company and senior managers for what James described as years of misrepresenting the company’s financial position for economic benefits. James’s office has interviewed more than 50 witnesses in the case and collected some 1.7 million pages of documents. The trial in that case is scheduled to start in October, but Trump’s legal team has requested a delay.—Brian Bennett

How are Republicans reacting?

Most Republican politicians have expressed outrage at the indictment, referring to it as “political prosecution,” and implying it is a political ploy meant to interfere with the presidential race.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, arguably one of Trump’s biggest supporters, called the indictment a “witch hunt,” echoing the former President’s talking point.

Polls suggest many Republican voters agree with Trump. In a Marist poll, only 10% of Republican respondents thought Trump did something illegal, compared to 78% of Democrats. About 80% of Republican respondents said the investigation into the former president is a “witch hunt.”

Even Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination are attacking the indictment. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not announced a 2024 campaign, tweeted that, “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American.” He said that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.” (The state is constitutionally required to comply with other state’s extradition requests, though President Trump has already landed in New York ahead of the arrest.)

A smaller number of Republicans are calling for the indictment and proceeding court hearings to play out. “There’s checks and balances with a jury, judges and appeals,” Rep. Don Bacon told Axios. “President Trump will be able to make his defense and we’ll all see if this is a partisan prosecution or not.”—SB

How is New York preparing for security risks around Trump’s arraignment?

New York City police are cordoning off streets and calling up officers as they brace for protests and counter-protests. Federal law-enforcement officials are tracking a surge of violent threats against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, including a typewritten death threat containing white powder. And on the online forums where the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was planned, former President Donald Trump’s supporters are still debating how to best heed his call to “Take Our Country Back.”

Of all the unprecedented elements in Trump’s indictment, law-enforcement officials face a particular challenge in preparing for the public arraignment of a former—and perhaps future—American President who has warned of “potential death & destruction” if he is charged with a crime. The New York City Police Department, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Secret Service are among those making preparations and gauging the risks ahead of Trump’s arraignment Tuesday in Lower Manhattan. Here are some of the security considerations ahead of the historic arraignment and what officials are doing to prepare.—Vera Bergengruen

Who are the key figures surrounding Trump’s indictment?

The criminal case against Trump involves several key players—from witnesses to the prosecutors and the lawyers representing the former President. Here is a rundown of a few of the major names in the case.

Stormy Daniels

Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, is the adult film actor whose alleged affair and hush money deal with Trump was the focal point of the grand jury investigation that led to the indictment. Daniels says she had sex with Trump in 2006, a claim which Trump denies. In 2016, weeks before the presidential election, Daniels attempted to sell her story about the affair to the National Enquirer.

Michael Cohen

Word reached Michael Cohen, Trump’s then personal lawyer and fixer who allegedly brokered a deal to silence Daniels about the affair.

In October 2016, Daniels received $130,000 in a lump sum payment from Cohen, which federal investigators verified during a 2018 investigation. Daniels and Cohen have both said that the payout was approved by Trump in exchange for Daniels’ silence about their sexual encounter. A trusted confidante, Cohen worked for Trump for more than 10 years, but turned on him to cooperate with investigators in 2018 after he faced charges over discrepancies in Cohen’s finances.

Law enforcement confirmed that Trump paid Cohen the equivalent $130,000 after Cohen paid off Daniels—but the former president has claimed the money was for legal expenses. Investigators allege that there were no such legal services at the time.

Cohen opened up about other fraudulent activity and was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2018 for numerous crimes, which included campaign finance violations, evading taxes and lying to Congress.

Alvin Bragg

The indictment was brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a former white-collar prosecutor and civil rights attorney. Bragg became the first Black district attorney for Manhattan in 2022, campaigning on a progressive platform to reform systemic issues in New York’s criminal justice system. Bragg took over the investigation into Trump’s role in the alleged hush money deal from the previous DA, but initially worried that the case wouldn’t be strong enough to hold up in court. Bragg slowed the office’s investigation, prompting the two prosecutors leading it to resign out of protest in March 2022.

The next month, Bragg commented that the investigation was not over, but refrained from making any public moves until this year.—AK

When will Trump appear in court next?

At the arraignment in Manhattan, Trump’s next court appearance was set for Dec. 4, just two months before the first contest of the 2024 Republican presidential primary race. The DA’s office asked the judge to schedule the trial for January, despite Trump’s attorneys’ request that it begin later in the spring of 2024.

Judge Juan Merchan will decide one the timing of the case, and trial, but legal analysts expect it to extend well into 2024 and the presidential campaign season.

The start of the GOP primary season, the Iowa Caucuses, will begin on Feb. 5, closely followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 13. If the prosecutors’ request for a January trial is granted, it could limit Trump’s campaign travel, but put him in the media spotlight everywhere. The trial’s proximity to the race underscores how Trump’s criminal charges could influence his candidacy—potentially boosting his appeal for his supporters.—AK

Are there any restrictions on Trump after his arrest?

Trump was released on his own recognizance after his arrest. That’s standard in white collar criminal cases where the defendant has ties to the community.

There were no conditions that we know of placed on his bail and he was free to return to his home in Florida and travel the country as for his 2024 presidential campaign.

There were also no restrictions put on what Trump can say about the case. But, at the arraignment, Judge Juan Merchan instructed both the defense and prosecution to refrain from making “statements that are likely to incite violence and civil unrest.”

Trump’s recent posts on TruthSocial included warning of “potential death & destruction” if he was charged, showed a photo of Trump holding a baseball bat next to an image of Bragg, and called Bragg an “animal.” Prosecutors asked for a protective order that would limit Trump from posting evidence turned over to Trump’s legal team as part of discovery online or sharing it with people outside his legal team; both sides are currently working out an agreement. The prosecution also expressed concern over how Trump’s posts could impact the safety of jurors, witnesses and the legal process.

Judges have the power to impose gag orders in criminal proceedings, which essentially limit the defendant, attorney or witnesses from speaking about the case publicly, or to unauthorized third parties. Gag orders are rare due to their risk of limiting free speech, but can be imposed in high profile cases. Legal experts say that a gag order could be placed at any point in the widely-watched case, and Mercan added that would consider further motions if necessary. For now, Trump is free to speak.

Later on Tuesday, Trump criticized the case and other investigations into him, calling Bragg a criminal, in a televised speech from Mar-a-Lago and speaking in front of hundreds of his supporters. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” Trump said.—AK

What do you want to know about Trump’s indictment? Send your questions to

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at