A grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump, according to reporting by the New York Times, which cited four sources with inside knowledge of the indictment. This would make him the first former president ever to be formally charged with a crime. It’s a dramatic culmination of one of many investigations into Trump, this one led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which has been investigating the Trump Organization’s finances since 2019.
The charges against Trump, which are expected to be announced in the coming days, are related to District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into Trump’s alleged attempt to hide hush money payments to Stormy Daniels—a porn star with whom Trump is accused of having an affair. Technically, it was Trump’s former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen who paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money back in 2016, but Trump allegedly later reimbursed Cohen through the Trump Organization, labeling the payments as legal fees. It’s a misdemeanor in New York to make that kind of misrepresentation on financial documents, and if the misrepresentation is in furtherance of another crime—which the district attorney alleges in this case—it is a felony in New York and carries a prison sentence of up to four years.
Cohen has already served a prison sentence for federal campaign finance crimes related to the hush money scheme, pleading guilty and implicating Trump in the process. Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, last year also pleaded guilty to 15 separate charges ranging from grand larceny and tax fraud to falsifying business records stemming from a different financial scheme that Cohen helped expose, and he could also be a critical witness in the case against Trump.
Last week, Trump tipped off the world that his own indictment was looming, posting on Truth Social that he would be arrested last Tuesday, 9 days before the jury voted to indict. (He also encouraged his followers to protest, despite what happened the last time he told them that.) Local, state, and federal law enforcement officials immediately began preparing with security plans—but protests were relatively calm last week, with both Trump supporters and pro-indictment demonstrators gathering outside the Manhattan Criminal Court building.
So what exactly is expected next, once Trump is formally indicted?
Well, an indictment on a former president has never happened in U.S. history, and Trump’s case isn’t expected to follow typical procedure. A lot will depend on how the district attorney chooses to handle the case and how Trump’s defense team responds. But the most likely timeline, based on what we know now, is as follows:
An arrest is coming
After a grand jury votes to indict, an arrest warrant is typically issued if the person isn’t already in custody. Trump is not, since he currently resides at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He will be required to surrender in-person at the New York district attorney’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan, something that one of his lawyers previously confirmed to the New York Daily News that he would comply with. “There won’t be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago with Secret Service and the Manhattan DA’s office,” said Joe Tacopina. According to the Times, Bragg is expected to negotiate Trump’s surrender. Given the logistics of traveling out of state and the necessary back and forth between legal teams, it’ll likely take several days or even weeks.
When he does finally surrender, legal experts are speculating Trump won’t have a typical “perp walk,” because in some white-collar crime cases like this, the defendant is allowed to turn themselves in voluntarily without handcuffs at an agreed-upon date and time. Trump probably won’t be confined to a holding cell, either; instead, he will likely be surrounded by his Secret Service agents when he turns himself in.
After surrendering to the DA, Trump will be escorted to booking, which includes having a mugshot and fingerprints taken, per New York state criminal procedure law, before he can be released ahead of trial.
Trump could stall
There’s always a chance that Trump decides not to comply, in which case he would have to be forcibly extradited. But that would simply delay the process and require the participation of Trump’s hypothetical Republican primary nemesis, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In that scenario, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul would send a written extradition demand to DeSantis, who would then be legally obligated to verify the indictment before ordering Trump’s extradition from Florida.
DeSantis said that he would refuse to participate in any extradition efforts. “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” he tweeted Thursday in response to the news of the indictment vote.
Then comes an arraignment hearing
Shortly after turning himself in, Trump will be required to attend an arraignment hearing in front of a New York judge, who will read all charges aloud. It’s at this point that Trump would be required to enter a formal plea; he’s expected to plead not guilty. Trump will then be released until his next court date, since New York law dictates people indicted on nonviolent felony charges can be released on their own recognizance, without bail, unless they’re considered a flight risk.
There is a possibility that Trump’s arraignment hearing will be done remotely, given the extraordinary circumstances. If that happens, booking details would likely be handled at a different time.
No bail expected
Given the likely nature of the charges, it’s not expected that Trump will need to post bail.
Don’t hold your breath for a quick conviction
Criminal cases in New York typically run at a snail’s pace—taking more than a year on average to move from indictment to trial, according to Reuters. However, that means Trump could be facing trial right in the thick of his 2024 presidential campaign, or even after Election Day. If Trump were to be elected in 2024, he wouldn’t hold the power to pardon himself of state charges, but he also couldn’t face a jury or even be imprisoned while serving in office. He would essentially be off the hook until the end of his term.