Trump to plead not guilty during historic hush money arraignment, no matter the charges

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NEW YORK — New York City on Friday was bracing for chaos to descend on lower Manhattan ahead of Donald Trump’s historic arraignment in Manhattan criminal court — where the former president plans to deny he’s a criminal.

Trump, who was indicted Thursday, is set to appear before State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday to enter a plea to charges stemming from the Manhattan district attorney’s yearslong probe into his business and financial dealings.

While the grand jury heard evidence about the notorious hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, Trump doesn’t know yet exactly what charges he will face. Either way, his lawyer, Susan Necheles, said he knows how he’ll respond.

“He will plead not guilty,” Necheles told the New York Daily News.

Hundreds of reporters and camera crews Friday continued to stake out the 17-story Art Deco courthouse in lower Manhattan from all sides, days before Trump’s slated arrival, with counterterrorism units and officers from various state and federal law enforcement agencies out in full force.

New York political leaders reaffirmed the city is ready for whatever happens next. They pledged to support Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, saying Trump should be held to the same standard as anyone else facing criminal charges despite his tenure in the White House.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said her office was in close contact with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and that the state was ready to provide whatever assistance necessary to prepare for the proceeding.

“Obviously, the NYPD is the finest in the world and they know what they’re doing; they’ve trained for this, they’re able to handle crowds. This is not new to the NYPD. I also wanted to offer our assistance in any way they want to take advantage of it,” Hochul said at an unrelated press conference.

“I just wanted to open up the doors of communication should the need arise,” Hochul said. The indictment, she said, is “simply a statement that all of our laws apply to everyone. All laws apply to everyone.”

Despite two bogus bomb threats and a white powder scare, the NYPD has not yet determined any threats to be credible.

Nevertheless, state courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen said court officers remained at a “heightened state of readiness” and will maintain vigilance and situational awareness inside the courthouses and on perimeter patrols.

Trump could arrive in his hometown as early as Monday. NBC News reported that Trump is expected to leave Florida and touch down at LaGuardia late Monday with “dozens and dozens” of Secret Service agents in tow.

The agency declined to shed light on security prep underway for the former president’s surrender.

“To maintain the highest levels of integrity for our operations, we are not able to comment on specific protection plans or movements,” U.S. Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement to the Daily News.

Since learning of the indictment shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, Trump has doubled down on his attacks on Bragg, posting falsehoods and invoking his relatives’ names in inflammatory social media posts.

They follow the ex-president’s threats earlier the week, promising “death and destruction” should he face indictment.

U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., blasted his colleagues on the other side of the aisle in a Friday morning interview with the Daily News. The congressman, who represents parts of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, condemned the GOP House Judiciary Committee threatening to investigate Bragg for “very clearly acting as Donald Trump’s defense attorneys.”

Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Trump during his first Ukraine-related impeachment, said Trump’s cries that he’s a victim of political persecution are likely to fall flat once he steps into the courtroom.

“He is going to try to make this purely political. He views everything as purely political, and that may have some impact on the public, but it will have no impact on the criminal case, because that will be conducted entirely within the walls of a courtroom,” Goldman said.

“The rules of a courtroom are very different than the rules in public and frankly very different than the rules in Congress, and he will not be able to make his political defenses in a court of law.”