Donald Trump turned himself in Tuesday for a historic New York court hearing held amid tight security and a global media frenzy, as the Republican billionaire becomes the first American president in history to face criminal charges.
In a spectacle playing out on live television — with rival protesters rallying outside — the hearing marks a watershed moment for the US criminal and political system, with the potential to upend the 2024 White House race in which Trump is currently the leading Republican nominee.
The 76-year-old Trump is expected to plead not guilty to a host of charges related to hush money paid to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election that brought him to power.
“Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME,” Trump posted on his Truth Social app as he headed to the courthouse from Trump Tower, where he spent the night after flying from Florida.
“Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The twice-impeached Republican is the first sitting or former American president to be criminally indicted — a development that has propelled the United States into uncharted political waters.
Police lined the streets while helicopters buzzed in the skies as Trump’s motorcade made the short drive to court, a journey given wall-to-wall live coverage on US networks although cameras will not be allowed for the hearing itself.
Trump waved at supporters after leaving his car before walking into the complex under US Secret Service protection. He was not subjected to a “perp walk” — in which a defendant is escorted in handcuffs past media cameras.
The former president was due to undergo the standard booking procedure of being fingerprinted — and potentially photographed, which would result in an all-time famous mug shot — at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
He will then learn at his arraignment, scheduled to start at 2:15 pm (1615 GMT) precisely what charges he faces. Trump was due to plead not guilty to all counts, his lawyers have said.