Trump's arrest: Inside the Manhattan courtroom

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom with his attorneys Joe Tacopina and Boris Epshteyn.
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NEW YORK — Many hours after reporters began camping out for access to a sweltering 15th-floor Manhattan courtroom, a former U.S. president was formally charged with a crime for the first time in history.

Donald Trump entered the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse around 1:30 p.m. ET for processing, coming into the courtroom itself an hour later, 15 minutes after the arraignment’s scheduled start time. The former president spoke only three times during the 55-minute hearing, once to plead not guilty and twice to acknowledge his rights as a defendant.

Ahead of Trump’s arrival, press in the courtroom were repeatedly reminded that there were “no electronics allowed in the courtroom and no moving.” There were at least 20 uniformed New York state court officers in the room to enforce those rules, as well as other non-uniformed officers, presumably Secret Service. Approximately 50 reporters were in the actual courtroom, not including a small number of still photographers allowed in briefly to capture images before the proceedings began. Trump appeared to turn toward them as they took photos.

Over the course of the hearing, the crowd outside — which contained Trump supporters and opponents and scores of additional media members gathered on an idyllic spring day — could at times be heard chanting and cheering.

Opponents of Trump outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse hold up signs reading: No one is above the law.
Opponents of Trump gather outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse during his arraignment Tuesday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The prosecution raised concerns that Trump had made threatening statements on social media toward “our cities, our courts and our justice system,” citing “death and destruction” and “World War III,” as well as posting an image of himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump’s defense attorneys said that the former president is entitled to discuss the case, but conceded that Trump had responded “forcefully” because he is “frustrated and upset.” Judge Juan Merchan told the legal teams to instruct their witnesses to refrain from making statements that have the “potential to incite violence and unrest” and not to make statements that undermine the rule of law.

Merchan set the next in-person hearing for Dec. 4, while the prosecution said it was hoping to go to trial in January of next year — about the time of the Iowa caucuses, where Trump is competing as a presidential candidate. Trump’s lawyers suggested they would seek to waive his right to appear at the Dec. 4 hearing, citing the great expense to the city and security concerns involved with having him appear in court. Merchan acknowledged that Tuesday had been a huge ordeal for everyone involved but that he still expected all defendants to appear in court, including high-profile ones.

Trump departed New York en route to Florida late Tuesday afternoon. He was scheduled to give remarks addressing the charges at his Mar-a-Lago club Tuesday evening.

An anti-Trump protester outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office holds up a sign reading: Lock him up.
An anti-Trump protester outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday. (Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images)

The Manhattan investigation is focused on a hush money payment made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. In the statement of facts released after the hearing concluded, Manhattan prosecutors charged that Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public.”

“From August 2015 to December 2017, the Defendant orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant’s electoral prospects,” the prosecutors said. “In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York. The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme.”

Addressing the media after the hearing, Bragg defended the decision to bring charges against Trump.

“I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I’m no stranger to rigorous, complex investigations,” Bragg said. “I bring cases when they’re ready. Having conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation, the case was ready to be brought. And it was brought.”

Trump is currently under investigation in multiple other cases, including a federal probe into his handling of sensitive documents and a Georgia probe into his attempts to overturn the 2020 election in the state.