Former US President Donald Trump is set to make history as he becomes the first sitting or former president to face criminal charges. The case involves a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, with Trump being indicted last week. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday, where he will be formally charged, fingerprinted and have a mug shot taken. Trump has maintained his innocence and is expected to plead not guilty.
The arraignment, where Trump will hear the charges and have a chance to enter a plea, is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday. It is expected to be a high-security event, with demonstrations for and against the former president anticipated. Trump's lawyers have opposed videography, photography, and radio coverage of the event, saying it would detract from the dignity and decorum of the proceedings. However, Judge Juan Merchan ruled that five photographers will be allowed to take pictures before the arraignment begins.
Trump's legal team has argued that the charges are politically motivated. Yahoo News has reported that he will face 34 felony counts for falsification of business records, but this has yet to be confirmed. The case has divided opinion in New York, where Trump's name is emblazoned on many buildings related to his business ventures. Some have welcomed the charges, while others continue to support the former president.
Trump's legal troubles are not limited to this case. He also faces a separate criminal investigation into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia. Additionally, there are two investigations by a special counsel over his handling of classified documents after leaving office. These legal challenges could have profound implications for the world's most powerful country, especially if Trump decides to run for president again in 2024.
Despite the legal woes, Trump's popularity among Republican voters remains strong. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 48% of self-described Republicans say they want Trump to be their party's presidential nominee. This is up from 44% in a March 14-20 poll. Florida Governor Ron Desantis, who was seen as a potential rival to Trump for the nomination, has fallen to around 19%.
The case against Trump is likely to be a long and protracted one. Any potential trial is still at least more than a year away, meaning it could occur during or after the presidential campaign. This means that the outcome of the case could have significant ramifications for the Republican Party and the US as a whole.
In the meantime, Trump has been busy beefing up his legal team, hiring Todd Blanche, a prominent white-collar criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to join his defense. Trump's campaign has also been busy raising funds, with senior adviser Jason Miller announcing that it raised $7 million in the three days after news of the indictment broke.
The case against Donald Trump marks a watershed moment in US politics. Regardless of the outcome, it will have far-reaching implications for the future of the Republican Party and the US as a whole. It remains to be seen whether Trump will be able to shake off the legal challenges and mount a successful bid for the presidency in 2024.