Former US president Donald Trump is facing several charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offence, in the indictment against him by a New York grand jury, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday.
He will be formally arrested and arraigned next Tuesday in his hush money case, court officials said, an announcement promising the historic scene of a former US commander in chief forced to stand before a judge.
The indictment against him remains sealed and the specific charges were not known, but details were confirmed by people who requested anonymity.
The streets outside the court where the arraignment will unfold were calm on Friday compared with earlier in the week.
When Mr Trump turns himself in, he will be booked like anyone else facing charges, with mug shot and fingerprinting.
But he is not expected to be put in handcuffs. He will have secret service protection and will almost certainly be released the same day.
In the meantime, Mr Trump’s legal team prepared his defence while the prosecutor defended the grand jury investigation that propelled the matter toward trial.
Congressional Republicans, as well as Mr Trump himself, contend the whole matter is politically motivated.
“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg wrote to three Republican House committee chairmen on Friday in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The case is plunging the US into uncharted legal waters, with Mr Trump the first former president ever to face an indictment.
And the political implications could be titanic ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Mr Trump is in the midst of running for president a third time and has said the case against him could hurt that effort – though his campaign is already raising money by citing it.
Top Republicans also have begun closing ranks around him.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has promised to use congressional oversight to investigate Mr Bragg.
Representatives James Comer, Jim Jordan and Bryan Steil, the committee chairmen whom Bragg addressed in his letter, have asked the district attorney’s office for grand jury testimony, documents and copies of any communications with the justice department.
Mr Trump’s indictment came after a grand jury investigation into hush money paid during the 2016 presidential campaign to bury allegations of an extramarital sexual encounter.
The indictment itself has remained sealed, as is standard in New York before an arraignment.
The investigation dug into six-figure payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Both claim to have had sexual encounters with Mr Trump years before he got into politics. He denies having sexual liaisons with either woman.
Mr Trump also has denied any wrongdoing involving payments and has denounced the investigation as a “scam”, a “persecution” and an injustice. He says that it is specifically designed to damage his 2024 presidential run.
Mr Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina said during TV interviews on Friday he would “very aggressively” challenge the legal validity of the Manhattan grand jury indictment.
Mr Trump himself, on his social media platform, complained that the judge expected to handle the case, Juan Manuel Merchan, “HATES ME”.
On his social media platform Mr Trump also accused Democrats of having “LIED, CHEATED, AND STOLEN IN THEIR MANIACAL OBSESSION TO ‘GET TRUMP.’”
The former president is expected to fly to New York on Monday and stay at Trump Tower overnight ahead of his planned arraignment on Tuesday.
He will be arraigned in the same Manhattan courtroom where his company was tried and convicted of tax fraud in December and where disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial took place.
On Friday, officials from the secret service and the New York Police Department toured the court and discussed security plans.
Since Mr Trump’s post on March 18 post claiming his arrest was imminent, authorities have ratcheted up security, deploying additional police officers, lining the streets around the court with barricades and dispatching bomb-sniffing dogs.
Since no former president had ever been charged with a crime, there is no rulebook for booking the defendant.
He will be fingerprinted and have a mug shot taken, and investigators will complete arrest paperwork and check to see if he has any outstanding criminal charges or warrants.
All of that activity takes place away from the public. New York law prohibits the release of mug shots in most cases. Less clear is whether Mr Trump would seek to have the picture released himself, for political or other reasons.
Once the booking is complete, the former president would appear before a judge for an afternoon arraignment.
Even for defendants who turn themselves in, answering criminal charges in New York generally entails at least several hours of detention while being fingerprinted, photographed and going through other procedures.
As for the allegations, as Mr Trump ran for president in 2016, his allies paid two women to bury their accusations.
The publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer paid McDougal 150,000 dollars (£120,000) for rights to her story and sat on it, in an arrangement brokered by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
After Cohen himself paid Daniels 130,000 dollars (£105,000), Mr Trump’s company reimbursed him, added bonuses and logged the payments as legal expenses.
Federal prosecutors argued, in a 2018 criminal case against Cohen, that the payments equated to illegal aid to Mr Trump’s campaign.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violation charges, but federal prosecutors did not go after Trump, who was then in the White House.
However, some of their court filings obliquely implicated him as someone who knew about the payment arrangements.
The New York indictment came as Mr Trump contends with other investigations that could have grave legal consequences.
In Atlanta, prosecutors are considering whether he committed any crimes when trying to get Georgia officials to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss there to Joe Biden.
At federal level, a justice department-appointed special counsel is investigating Mr Trump’s efforts to unravel the national election results.
Additionally, the special counsel is examining how and why he held on to a cache of top secret government documents at his Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, and whether the ex-president or his representatives tried to obstruct the investigation into those documents.
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