New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Secret Service over how to handle the possible arrest of former President Donald Trump next week on charges that he made an illegal payment to a star. porn to keep her quiet about alleged sexual abuse. case, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
On Saturday, Trump posted a message on social media saying he expected to be arrested on Tuesday. He called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION!”
While the president’s lawyers have been told that an indictment could come as early as Tuesday, indictments 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 big question at the moment is how to design the procedures for an extraordinary and unprecedented scenario: how to arrest, fingerprint and – by standard procedure – handcuff a defendant who happens to be a former president and is protected by a group of agents. of the Secret Service.
That question now faces Bragg as his prosecutors negotiate with the Secret Service and other federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department, on how to handle Trump’s arrest amid growing 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 holding cell, booked, with fingerprints, photographed for a police photo. and handcuffed. He would then be escorted by a lift to an upper floor, where he would be taken in handcuffs into a courtroom for his arraignment in full view of the media – the equivalent of a “criminal walk”.
But Trump is not the standard defendant. By law, he is always protected by Secret Service agents. Prosecutors are still debating whether Trump should be allowed Secret Service agents, rather than court security agents, to escort him to court without handcuffs. New York City prosecutors and police are also trying to map out a number of security concerns, including fears that a “nutcase” inside the public court might try to disrupt the proceedings, the source said.
Final resolution of this and related matters will rest with Bragg, but the source said the situation is still “fluid”, with important issues unresolved.
For many legal experts, even bigger questions still remain about the strength of Bragg’s case. It revolves around $130,000 in payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to a former porn star, Stormy Daniels, towards the end of the 2016 campaign when she was threatening to go public with an alleged sexual affair with Trump. 10 years earlier.
The payment, arranged by Cohen after consulting Trump, was listed internally at the Trump Organization as “legal expenses” — a description that Bragg’s prosecutors are expected to charge as illegal under a New York state law that prohibits falsifying business records.
But that charge is a misdemeanor offense unless it can be shown to form part of an underlying crime. To make that case and turn the charge into a felony, prosecutors are preparing to argue that the payment was made to Daniels to influence the 2016 election and therefore was a violation of New York state election law, as a Trump’s unstated contribution to his own campaign.
But this remains an untested legal theory. Presidential campaign contributions are governed by federal election law, and it is unclear whether New York election laws can be extended to include spending in a presidential race.
The source familiar with the case acknowledged that Trump’s lawyers are likely to challenge the indictment on these grounds, among others, and that a judge might finally agree and “make this a misdemeanor.”