Bragg wrestling with whether to allow Trump to avoid ‘perp walk’

City officials acknowledged that the normal rules may not apply to the former president.

Michael Isikoff

·Chief Investigative Correspondent

Tue, 21 March 2023 at 1:29 am GMT

Former President Donald Trump looks pensive, with supporters in the stands behind him.
Former President Donald Trump greets fans at the finals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Tulsa, Okla., on March 18. (Brett Rojo/USA TodaySports via Reuters)

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is wrestling with whether to enforce standard procedures for Donald Trump — including handcuffing him and forcing him to undergo a humiliating “perp walk” — if he is indicted this week on charges that he paid off a porn star to keep silent about an alleged sexual affair, according to a source directly familiar with discussions about the issue.

The questions about how to treat Trump, if, as many expect, he becomes a criminal defendant in coming days, has emerged as a central issue in the ongoing negotiations between Bragg’s office and city and federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, which is charged with protecting the safety of former presidents.

It has long been standard protocol for white-collar defendants charged with felony crimes in New York City that they are brought into a courthouse in lower Manhattan for processing. Once there, defendants are held in a jail cell, while authorities begin the process of fingerprinting them, taking their mug shots, and then escorting them, almost always in handcuffs, down a hallway on another floor to a courtroom in full view of cameras and the media — the proverbial “perp walk.”

A female police officer lifts a section of barricade across a crosswalk, with a park in the background.
Police officers set up barricades outside Manhattan criminal court as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg continues his investigation into former President Donald Trump, in New York City on March 20. (David Dee Delgado/Reuters)

But city officials acknowledge that the normal rules may not apply to Trump. The purported purpose of jailing and then handcuffing the defendants is to prevent them from fleeing, a scenario that would be highly unlikely, if not impossible, for someone as well-known as Trump.

“This is not normal,” said the source familiar with the ongoing negotiations. “This is somebody who has a protective detail.” The Secret Service, the source added, has a “great argument” that it would be literally impossible for Trump to flee the scene inside a New York City courthouse, when he will be surrounded by federal agents.

On the other hand, Bragg and the prosecutors in his office have made it clear they intend to treat Trump as they would any other defendant. So ultimately, the source said, it will be Bragg’s decision whether he wants to play hardball and force Trump to undergo standard procedures, or to make special accommodations for an individual who would be the first former president of the United States to be charged with criminal conduct.

On Monday, at the request of Trump’s lawyers, Robert Costello — a lawyer who once represented Trump’s chief accuser, Michael Cohen — spent several hours before the grand jury challenging aspects of his former client’s account of paying $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, to keep her from talking about an alleged one-night sexual fling 10 years earlier.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg talks to the media.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg addresses the media after leaving the courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Dec. 6, 2022. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Although they had Cohen on standby as a potential rebuttal witness, Bragg’s prosecutors did not call on him — a possible indication that they didn’t feel Costello made any dent in their case.

As a result, the source said, the grand jury could vote to indict Trump this week, with the former president making an appearance for booking and his arraignment in New York either on Thursday or Friday. The source added, however, that in view of the complicated logistics, the indictment and arraignment could “slip” to next week.

In the meantime, the source said, New York City police are ramping up security, amid heightened concerns in light of Trump’s call for his supporters to “protest” any indictment.

Among the security measures, the source said, plainclothes detectives in New York City have been told to wear their uniforms all week, in case they are urgently needed should any protests get out of control.

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