The office of New York City Attorney Alvin Bragg is engaged in delicate negotiations with the Secret Service over how to handle the possible arrest next week of former President Donald Trump on charges that he made an illegal payout to a porn star to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual affair, according to a source familiar with the conversations.
Trump posted a message on social media on Saturday that he expected to be arrested Tuesday. He called on his supporters to “protest, take back our nation”.
While the president’s lawyers were advised that an indictment could come as early as Tuesday, the indictment is more likely to be filed later in the week, the source said. Prosecutors still want to bring one witness to the grand jury before closing the case.
The main question at the moment is how to work out procedures for an extraordinary and unprecedented scenario: how to arrest, fingerprint and – according to standard procedure – handcuff a defendant who happens to be a former president and is protected by a group Secret Service agents.
That issue now rests squarely with 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 amid heightened security concerns.
Under standard procedure, once indicted, a defendant like Trump would be escorted to the New York City Courthouse in lower Manhattan and taken to a processing room where he would be briefly placed in a jail cell, booked, fingerprinted, photographed for a mugshot, and handcuffed . He would then be escorted via an elevator to an upper floor where he would be walked into a courtroom in handcuffs for his arraignment in full view of the media – the equivalent of a “crime gang”.
But Trump is not the default defendant. According to the law, he is protected at all times by Secret Service agents. Prosecutors are still discussing whether Trump should be allowed to allow Secret Service agents, rather than court security agents, to escort him to court without handcuffs. Prosecutors and the New York Police Department are also trying to address a host of security issues, including fears that a “crazy job” in the open court could disrupt proceedings, the source said.
The final resolution of that and related issues will be up to Bragg, but the source said the situation was still “fluid” and big questions remained unresolved.
For many legal experts, even bigger questions remain about the strength of Bragg’s case. It revolves around $130,000 in payments from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen to former porn actress Stormy Daniels towards the end of the 2016 campaign when she threatened to go public about an alleged sexual affair with Trump 10 years earlier.
The payment, arranged by Cohen after consultation with Trump, was listed internally within the Trump organization as “legal expenses” — a description Bragg’s prosecutors are expected to charge as illegal under a New York state law that prohibits falsifying business records. prohibits.
But that charge is a felony unless it can be shown to be part of an underlying crime. To defend that case and escalate the charges to a felony, prosecutors are preparing to allege that the payment to Daniels was made to influence the 2016 election and was therefore a violation of New York state election law. York as Trump’s undeclared contribution to his own election law. campaign.
But that remains an untested legal theory. Contributions to presidential campaigns fall under federal election law, and it’s not clear whether New York’s election laws can extend to expenses in a presidential race.
The source familiar with the case acknowledged that Trump’s lawyers will likely challenge the charges on those grounds, among other things, and that a judge could eventually agree and “reduce this to a misdemeanor.”