All you need to know about Donald Trump's historic court appearance today

A historic moment is expected to unfold in a New York court today as Donald Trump appears after becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges.

The man who spent four years leading one of the most powerful countries in the world will have his mugshot taken, be fingerprinted and be brought before a judge.

It comes after he officially launched his 2024 bid for the White House.

But what exactly is the case about? Join Metro as we walk you through it.

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Why is Donald Trump in court?

Adult film star Stormy Daniels claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump back in 2006, the year after he married his third wife Melania who had just given birth to their son Barron.

When the 2016 election came around, she was planning on selling her story, so Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 (£105,000) for her silence.

Trump is believed to have reimbursed Cohen more than double the original amount, but has continued to deny the affair.

Hush money is not illegal but court documents claim that the former Apprentice star falsely listed his former lawyer’s reimbursement as ‘legal services’.

Given that it allegedly happened as Americans went to the polls, there’s a chance it could also violate laws about payments that help an election campaign.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to nine federal charges, including campaign finance violations, and was sentenced to three years in prison.

What about Donald Trump and Karen McDougal?

The new investigation into Trump is said to also be probing a second alleged payment of $150,000 (£120,000) made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had an affair with Trump beginning in 2006.

The parent company of the National Enquirer agreed to pay McDougal $150,000 (£120,000) for the rights to her story.

But the tabloid never published her account, a practice known as ‘catch and kill’. Trump has also denied having this affair.

It is not immediately clear whether this is definitely part of the criminal case, which remains under seal.

What charges will Donald Trump face?

Two sources have claimed the indictment includes multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offence.

But we don’t actually know yet – and we’ll hopefully find out tonight.

To prove that Trump committed a fraudulent offence that rises above a misdemeanour, prosecutors need to present evidence that his records were intentionally falsified – and were done so with the intention of committing, aiding or concealing another crime.

Trump is expected to be released by authorities because the charges against him do not require that bail be set.

Unless his attorneys succeed in using pre-trial motions to get the case dismissed before it reaches a jury, there will be a trial where the billionaire can make his case.

So what will happen with Donald Trump today?

Trump is predicted to arrive at a Manhattan court at around 6.30am local time (11.30am UK time). 

He is expected to be be fingerprinted and have a mug shot taken before investigators complete arrest paperwork.

Following this, he will appear before a judge for his arraignment at around 2.15pm US time (7.15pm UK time). 

The charges will be read and Trump will be asked to enter a plea.

If he says not guilty, as expected, the judge will set a court date for a further hearing or a trial. 

The former US leader is due back at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at 8.15pm local time (1.15am UK time on Wednesday) where he will give a speech.

Could Donald Trump go to jail?

Technically, yes. The charge of falsifying business records in the first degree is a low-level felony carrying up to four years in prison.

But first-time offenders rarely go to prison on violent, low-level felonies.

The most likely outcomes are a fine, community service, or probation.

If this is the case, it doesn’t mean the trial won’t matter in the long run though.

Trump is facing a number of other criminal investigations which carry a risk of more serious criminal charges. A defendant’s prior criminal record can have an impact on sentencing. 

What has Donald Trump said about the hush money case?

Trump is expected to plead not guilty and has warned of potential ‘death & destruction’ if he faces criminal charges.

He believes the New York grand jury indictment – and three additional pending investigations – are politically motivated and intended to weaken his bid to retake the White House.

Writing on his Truth Social media site, he said: ‘What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?’

The former reality-TV star has been hyping that narrative to his political advantage, raising millions of dollars since the indictment on claims of a ‘witch hunt’.

He has personally assailed the Manhattan district attorney, egged on supporters to protest, and claimed without evidence that the judge presiding over the case ‘hates me’ – something his own lawyer has said is not true.

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Can Donald Trump still run for president?

Yes. There is nothing in the US Constitution that stops Trump from running to become president again.

Even if he did go to prison, he could still – in theory – run.

To qualify, you have to be 35, you have to have been a resident for 14 years and you have to be born in America.

But the case is likely to become a huge distraction amid his campaign.

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