Donald Trump Will Be No Ordinary New York Defendant If He’s Charged

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump says he expects he’ll soon be charged in New York with making hush-money payments to a porn star. If that happens, how the former president is processed by law-enforcement officials in Manhattan may be unlike any defendant in history.

Most Read from Bloomberg

While Trump will get fingerprinted and have his mug-shot taken, he won’t be marched before cameras in handcuffs or placed in a holding cell, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public. He’ll likely remain in the custody of the Secret Service agents assigned to his protection detail, the person said.

“His status as a former president, for better of worse, will lead to somewhat different treatment,” said Temidayo Aganga-Williams, a former federal prosecutor. “The security assessments are different here than if he was a private citizen. He is less likely to be seen as a security threat than a previously unknown defendant.”

The Trump grand jury investigation in Manhattan is being overseen by Juan Merchan, the same New York State Supreme Court judge who handled the tax-fraud prosecution of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and the tax fraud trial of the former president’s two companies, according to the person who asked not to be identified.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is investigating Trump for allegedly directing his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about her alleged affair with Trump. Trump has denied the affair and called the investigation a witch hunt.

Under Seal

If the Manhattan grand jury votes to indict Trump, the indictment would remain under seal until it is formally presented to the court, the person said. Bragg’s office could announce it at a news conference if he gets the court’s permission to make it public, the person said.

Law-enforcement authorities would likely call Trump’s lawyer as a courtesy, asking him to surrender to detectives working with Bragg at his lower Manhattan offices, which are in the same building as Merchan’s courtroom, the person said.

Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina said late last week Trump would surrender to authorities if there is an indictment and would not provoke a standoff.

After the processing paperwork is completed, Trump would be arraigned before a New York judge, according to the person. Because the charges would not be violent felonies, no bail would be required, the person said.

A spokeswoman for Bragg declined to comment on what provisions the office would make if Trump is indicted.

No Perp Walk

Two people familiar with the situation said Trump probably won’t have to endure the so-called perp walk, a courtesy that wasn’t extended to his longtime top executive, Weisselberg. The former Trump Organization chief financial officer was led down a long courthouse hallway in handcuffs and guarded by burly detectives as photographers recorded the spectacle.

“The Secret Service protection adds another level of complication,” Aganga-Williams said. “Typically, prosecutors after indictment have two options: one, is to give an indicted individual an opportunity to surrender and be taken into custody; or the other is to have that individual arrested.”

Security in the city remained a top concern after Trump issued a statement Saturday declaring he expected to be charged Tuesday and calling for supporters to rally: “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” Trump wrote in his online post. He also repeated his call for protests in a second Truth Social post Saturday afternoon. “It’s time!!!” he wrote.

In the wake of Trump’s statements, Bragg in an email cautioned staffers not to be intimidated by Trump’s calls for unrest, saying his office will “not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.”

Trump-Experienced Judge

Merchan, who handles criminal cases, is well-versed with Trump. He sentenced Weisselberg to five months in prison after he pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges last year. Merchan also presided over a weeks-long tax-fraud trial of two of Trump’s companies, later ordering both to pay $1.6 million, the maximum fines allowed under the law. A Manhattan jury found them guilty of all tax fraud charges.

Federal law enforcement, including the FBI, Secret Service and US Marshals Service along with the New York Police Department and court officials met Monday to discuss security concerns around a possible Trump indictment, the person said.

Meanwhile, New York City mayor Eric Adams said the city was prepared. “We’re doing what we always do,” Adams said Monday. “We are monitoring comments on social media and the NYPD is doing their normal role of making sure that they are there’s no inappropriate actions in the city. And we’re confident we’re going to be able to do that.”

The NYPD’s “state of readiness remains a constant at all times, for all contingencies,” the department said in a statement Monday. “Our communications and coordination with our partners in government and in law enforcement are fundamental tenets of our commitment to public safety.”

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.