Arrest, handcuffs… How would an indictment of Trump unfold?

A politico-judicial earthquake threatens to shake America at any moment. Accused of having bought the silence of ex-porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump assured on social networks that he would be arrested on Tuesday.

While the date is uncertain – according to Fox New, it wouldn’t be until next week – and depends on the findings of a Manhattan grand jury, authorities are bracing for a scenario that would be historic: a former US president never been criminally prosecuted.

Will Donald Trump be arrested?

In such a sensitive case, it is unlikely that the police will come knocking on Mar-a-Lago’s door in Florida and that he will then be extradited to New York State. Donald Trump’s lawyers have undoubtedly negotiated with the New York judicial authorities for their client to go and appear voluntarily in court, under the protection of the Secret Service. Before that, the former tenant of the White House will have to go through the Manhattan prosecutor’s office to have his fingerprints recorded and photographed. It is the famous mugshot.

Donald Trump should not be escorted in handcuffs under the flashes of photographers (the perp walk), because prosecutor Alvin Bragg will want to avoid any optics of political vendetta as much as possible. On the other side of the street, he will be presented to a judge in court, who will tell him of the official charges against him. It’s’arrangment, the reading of the indictment. Donald Trump will then decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty, and he should come out free.

Will there be demonstrations?

On Truth Social, Donald Trump called on his supporters to protest. For now, there does not seem to be a massive mobilization on social networks to organize a protest like during the assault on the Capitol. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called for calm, while elected official Marjorie Taylor Greene said Donald Trump was calling for “peaceful” protests.

What is Donald Trump accused of?

Just before the 2016 election, ex-porn star Stormy Daniels was about to tour TV sets to claim she had an affair with Donald Trump ten years earlier. The former lawyer and “fixer” of the Republican candidate, Michael Cohen, had then paid him 130,000 dollars to buy his silence. Cohen claims he acted on orders from Donald Trump, who later repaid him.

Photomontage of Donald Trump and ex-star X Stephanie Clifford (“Stormy Daniels”), in 2006.
Photomontage of Donald Trump and ex-star X Stephanie Clifford (“Stormy Daniels”), in 2006. – PHOTOS AP / SIPA

If such a payment is not illegal in itself, Donald Trump is suspected of misrepresentation for having passed off this payment as attorney fees. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will prosecute him for a simple misdemeanora misdemeanor punishable by a fine, or for a felony, a crime punishable by four years in prison. For that, prosecutors would have to prove that Donald Trump broke the campaign finance law. It’s a complicated task: facing similar charges, former Democratic candidate John Edwards had escaped conviction. The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision.

What impact for the 2024 presidential election?

Already in the campaign, Donald Trump denounces, as usual, a “witch hunt”. But neither an indictment, nor even a conviction, would prevent him from running or being elected – and might even galvanize his supporters. An ineligibility can only be decided by Congress after a conviction by the Senate during an impeachment, or, in theory, by invoking the 14th Amendment on insurgencies.

A possible trial, however, could complicate the logistics of Trump’s campaign and offer angles of attack to his opponents. On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, considered his most dangerous rival, quipped, saying he could not comment on “a payment to buy a pornstar’s silence about an alleged affair”. . The war is on.

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