Donald Trump will turn himself in to New York prosecutors on Tuesday, his lawyer said, insisting the former president would “not be put in handcuffs”.
Joe Tacopina added he expected the charges — the first criminal indictment in history of an ex-US president — to relate to payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels.
“He is not going to hole up in Mar-a-Lago,” the defence lawyer told US television networks on Friday, referring to Trump’s Florida estate. “The president will not be put in handcuffs” before his court appearance, Tacopina added.
In a post on his Truth Social platform on Friday, Trump railed against the “Witch Hunt Case”, adding that the judge reportedly assigned to it, Juan Manuel Merchan, “HATES ME”.
In an apparent reference to the novelty of the legal arguments he is expecting to be confronted with, the former president said such a case had “NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE”.
Manhattan prosecutors said late on Thursday they were co-ordinating Trump’s “surrender” with his legal team, after a grand jury voted behind doors to indict him.
Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for Donald Trump who testified in front of the grand jury in recent weeks, has claimed he was ordered to pay $130,000 to Daniels to cover up an alleged affair.
Tacopina contended that the payments, made in the run-up to the 2016 election, were “completely legal”.
The payments have been the subject of a years-long probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which has been investigating whether the transactions were falsely recorded as legal fees by the Trump campaign, and whether this was a violation of campaign finance laws.
Speaking on NBC News, Tacopina said the records in question were purely internal. “No one else relied on them, no one else had to rely on them . . . there is no crime, there is not even a bad act,” he said.
“I feel very concerned about the rule of law in this country . . . today it’s Donald Trump, tomorrow it’s a Democrat, the day after it’s your friend, the day after that it is you or me,” Tacopina said.
The White House has not issued any statement in response to the charges.
US president Joe Biden on Friday morning repeatedly refused to answer questions about his predecessor, telling reporters: “I have no comment on Trump,” and, “I’m not going to talk about the Trump indictment.”
Biden has not yet formally declared that he will seek re-election in 2024. But the Democratic president is widely expected to pursue a second term, setting the stage for a possible rematch.
Trump was the first national Republican to enter the 2024 race and opinion polls consistently show he remains the favourite contender among the Republican grassroots who will select the party’s nominee.
Trump’s potential Republican rivals for the party’s nomination, were quick to jump to his defence after the indictment. Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, attacked Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg in a tweet late on Thursday, saying he was “stretching the law to target a political opponent”.
Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president, who fell out with him over the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol, called the indictment an “outrage”, telling CNN: “It appears, for millions of Americans, to be nothing more than a political prosecution.”
Trump’s pending criminal charges do not technically prevent him from seeking higher office and the former president told reporters this month he would press on with his campaign even if he were indicted.
His critics and allies concur that the charges may fuel his primary campaign and energise his most loyal supporters. But Trump’s legal woes could dent his chances in a general election. A Quinnipiac poll out on Wednesday found that 57 per cent of Americans said criminal charges should disqualify him from running for president.