Tough negotiations ongoing over a possible arrest of Trump next week

Former President Donald Trump blows his fist as he departs after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 4 in National Harbor, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is embroiled in thorny negotiations with the Secret Service over how to deal with the possible arrest of former President Donald Trump next week on charges of making an illegal payoff to a porn star, to keep her quiet about an alleged sex affair, according to a source familiar with the talks.

Trump posted a message on social media on Saturday that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday. He called out to his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION!”

Although the president’s attorneys have been informed that charges could come as soon as Tuesday, charges are more likely later in the week, the source said. Prosecutors want to bring one more witness before the grand jury before closing the case.

The main question right now is how to work out procedures for an extraordinary and unprecedented scenario: how to arrest, fingerprint and – by standard procedure – handcuff a defendant who happens to be a former President and is being protected by a group of Secret Service agents.

This issue is now before Bragg head-on as his prosecutors negotiate with the Secret Service and other federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department, over how to handle Trump’s arrest amid heightened security concerns.

Under standard procedures, a defendant like Trump, once charged, would be escorted to the New York City courthouse in lower Manhattan and taken to a processing room, where he would be briefly placed in a jail cell, booked, fingerprinted, and photographed for a mugshot and with handcuffed. He was then escorted by elevator to an upper floor, where he was handcuffed into a courtroom for his arraignment before the media – the equivalent of a “criminal walk”.

Trump posted on Truth Social on Saturday that he expects to be arrested this week. (Social media via Reuters)

But Trump is not the standard defendant. By law, he is protected by Secret Service agents at all times. Prosecutors are still debating whether Trump should be allowed to have Secret Service agents escort him into the courtroom without handcuffs, rather than court security officials. Prosecutors and the New York City Police Department are also trying to point to a variety of safety issues, including fears that a “crazy job” in the public courtroom could be trying to disrupt proceedings, the source said.

The story goes on

Ultimate resolution of these and related issues rests with Bragg, but the source said the situation is still “fluid” and important issues remain unresolved.

Bigger questions remain for many legal experts about the strength of Bragg’s case. It revolves around around $130,000 in payments from Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, to a former porn actress, Stormy Daniels, late in the 2016 campaign when she threatened to go public about an alleged sexual affair with Trump 10 years ago .

The payment, which was arranged by Cohen after consulting Trump, was listed internally within the Trump Organization as “legal expenses” — a description Bragg’s prosecutors are likely to consider illegal under a New York state law prohibiting the forgery of business records will accuse.

Michael Cohen, former attorney for Donald Trump, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at the New York courthouse March 15. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

But that charge is a misdemeanor unless it can be shown to form part of an underlying criminal offense. To advance this case and escalate the charges to a felony, prosecutors are preparing to argue that the payment to Daniels was made to influence the 2016 election and, therefore, a violation of the state’s election law New York pictured as an unreported contribution by Trump to his own campaign.

But that remains an unexamined legal theory. Contributions to presidential campaigns are governed by federal election law, and it is not clear whether New York’s election laws can be extended to include presidential election spending.

The source familiar with the case acknowledged that Trump’s attorneys are likely to challenge the charges on these grounds, among others, and that a judge could ultimately agree and “reduce this to a misdemeanor.”


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