Trump 'shocked' by indictment but 'ready to fight'
March 31, 2023 09:44 PM NPT
WASHINGTON, March 31: Following his historic indictment on criminal charges, Donald Trump was preparing Friday to go where no former US president has gone before -- a prosecutor's office to be booked, fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken.
Trump's pending arrest, expected on Tuesday, throws a political grenade into the 2024 presidential race, in which the 76-year-old real estate tycoon is hoping to return to the White House.
Pressed by reporters on Friday, President Joe Biden repeatedly declined to address the fate of the Republican candidate he defeated in the 2020 election and could potentially face again in November of next year.
"I have no comment on Trump," Biden said.
A New York grand jury indicted Trump on Thursday over a $130,000 hush-money payment made to a porn star to buy her silence during his 2016 campaign.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused the Manhattan district attorney who brought the charges, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of waging a "political witch-hunt" to derail his new White House bid.
Trump's lawyers said the former president, who is currently at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, would surrender to New York authorities on Tuesday to face the charges, which remain under seal.
Extra security has been deployed for days around the downtown Manhattan courthouse where Trump is expected to be booked and arraigned before a judge.
"The president will not be put in handcuffs," said Joe Tacopina, one of Trump's attorneys, but "I'm sure they'll try to make sure they get some joy out of this by parading him."
Trump would plead not guilty and there was "zero" chance he would accept a plea deal, Tacopina told NBC's "Today" show. "It's not going to happen. There's no crime."
Trump was initially "shocked" at the indictment, his attorney said, but "he's now in the posture that he's ready to fight this."
In predicting his indictment, Trump called for protests and warned that it could lead to "potential death and destruction" for the country.
- 'Disgraceful' -
"They only brought this Fake, Corrupt, and Disgraceful Charge against me because I stand with the American People, and they know that I cannot get a fair trial in New York!" he wrote on his social media platform Truth Social.
Trump survived two impeachments while in the White House and kept prosecutors at bay over everything from the US Capitol riot to missing classified files -- only to land in court over a sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels, a 44-year-old adult movie actress.
Top Republicans have rallied around the former president who remains the favorite to win the party's 2024 presidential nomination despite potential legal troubles that extend beyond the New York indictment.
Trump faces felony investigations in Georgia relating to the 2020 election and in Washington over both the classified files and the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, said the indictment had "irreparably damaged" the country.
Trump's former vice president and possible 2024 challenger Mike Pence called it an "outrage" that would only "further serve to divide" the United States.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, another likely 2024 Republican rival, slammed the indictment as "un-American."
On the Democratic side, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said "no one is above the law" and Representative Adam Schiff -- lead prosecutor of Trump's first impeachment in 2019 -- called it "sobering."
"The indictment and arrest of a former president is unique throughout all of American history," Schiff said. "But so too is the unlawful conduct for which Trump has been charged."
- 2024 impact -
Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress in 2019 that he made the payment to Daniels on Trump's behalf to hide a 2006 tryst and was later reimbursed.
The grand jury that indicted Trump was asked to consider if there had been a cover-up intended to benefit his campaign by burying the scandal.
The impact of the indictment in the hush-money case on Trump's 2024 election chances is unpredictable.
Detractors worry that if Trump is cleared it could muddy any future indictment in arguably more serious affairs -- such as Trump's efforts to overturn Georgia's election results or the January 6 riot.
The Manhattan charges will also likely juice turnout among Trump's loyal base, boosting his chances in the party primary.