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Trump arrives in New York to face charges

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump has landed in New York City. He's set to face charges related to hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump is expected to surrender early tomorrow at a Manhattan courthouse. Today, a small group of his supporters protested outside Trump Tower.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We love Trump. We love Trump. We love Trump.

FLORIDO: For the latest, we are joined by NPR reporters Ilya Marritz and Jasmine Garsd, who are both in New York. Hi, you two.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: Hello.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

FLORIDO: Jasmine, you are outside of Trump Tower right now. This is the first former U.S. president to be indicted. It's historic. What are you seeing?

GARSD: Well, it's been quite a scene all morning, all afternoon. Law enforcement hasn't indicated that there is any threat, but several parts of Manhattan are completely barricaded and heavily guarded by the NYPD - the courthouse area and also where I'm standing now, right by Trump Tower, where former President Trump arrived, really, just a few minutes ago. And, as you said, there were a handful of protesters and a lot of media.

FLORIDO: Ilya Marritz, you have been covering the former president's legal difficulties in the state of New York for years. What can you tell us about the charges we might see tomorrow?

MARRITZ: Well, we don't know what they are, and I can't emphasize that enough. We won't know until the indictment is unsealed. We expect that to happen sometime around the middle of the day tomorrow. Around 2:15 is when the arraignment is scheduled, so that would make sense. But we do know, from the witnesses who've been going in to speak with the grand jury to be questioned, that prosecutors seem to be most interested in the hush-money payments that Trump fixer Michael Cohen arranged to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the final days and weeks of the presidential campaign and how President Trump, when - once he became president, repaid that $130,000 in hush money. So that is the fact pattern that we think is going to be connected with the charges contained in the indictment that'll be unsealed tomorrow.

FLORIDO: OK. So as you mentioned, the case remains under seal, but we already seem to be seeing both sides sort of spinning this story - to set expectations, maybe?

MARRITZ: Yes. Donald Trump has been head-on attacking the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and also the judge who will be hearing his arraignment tomorrow, Juan Merchan. Trump posted to social media that Merchan, quote, "hates me." We know that District Attorney Bragg has been getting a lot of hate mail and threats. On the substantive side, the president's allies are really trying to paint this case as politically motivated and flimsy, outside of the norm.

There is another side to it, and we've seen quite a few former attorneys from the DA's office come forward and try to show the ways in which this case is sort of kind of normal. And to some extent, it is. The DA has charged a lot of cases built around keeping false business records. It's not only unheard of - it's common. That is what we expect to see in the indictment tomorrow.

What is unusual is to try to upgrade a false business records case to a felony by tying it to an illegal campaign donation on the federal level with a defendant who's a former president and also a candidate for president. That is unusual, and that seems to be what is going on.

FLORIDO: So tomorrow morning is when we expect President Trump to turn himself in at the court. Jasmine Garsd, what can we expect to see then?

GARSD: Well, it's expected that he'll be fingerprinted, possibly have his photo taken. Trump's lawyers have said he will not be handcuffed. And I should mention this is a short trip for the former president. He's spending the night tonight at his house in Trump Towers (ph). And then he flies back tomorrow to Mar-a-Lago, where he's going to be delivering a primetime speech. And as Ilya said, that's as much as we know. There's a lot of uncertainty.

FLORIDO: Ilya, eventually, this case will go to trial in New York. At least we expect it to. But is that months away? Years away?

MARRITZ: We don't think it's a particularly complex case. So if this were any other defendant, any other situation, I would say it will proceed quickly. But the defendant is Donald Trump. He fought the Manhattan DA all the way to the Supreme Court twice. And I think now we should expect him to throw up a lot of motions to try to slow this down and stymie it. The former DA, Cy Vance Jr., said he thought Trump might even try to get the federal courts involved here. So it's really hard to say, except that all of this will be playing out with the backdrop of a presidential campaign.

FLORIDO: Jasmine, what are you hearing about all this?

GARSD: Yeah. I'm hearing the same thing - that, you know, we don't know what's going to happen, but it is speculated that Trump's camp could push the trial all the way into the 2024 campaign. And, you know, while I was out here, I spoke to several supporters, who told me this worries them, on the one hand, but it also could be something that kind of adds fuel to his campaign. Here's David Rem right in front of Trump Towers.

DAVID REM: I'm not worried at all. Donald Trump is going to be victorious, and they're going to fuel his presidency even more by attempting this clown circus that they're trying to attempt.

GARSD: So they're saying it might actually help his cause.

FLORIDO: I have been speaking with NPR reporters Ilya Marritz and Jasmine Garsd, who are both in New York covering the expected arraignment tomorrow of Donald Trump at a Manhattan courthouse. Thanks to both of you.

GARSD: Thank you...

MARRITZ: You're welcome.

GARSD: ...For having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
Ilya Marritz