Donald Trump is the first former US President to be arrested on criminal charges.
He is being arraigned at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on criminal charges said to be related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016.
He left his home at Trump Tower shortly after 13.00 local time (18.00BST). He waved to waiting cameras, making a fist, before getting into his car.
It took just minutes for the former president’s motorcade to make the 6.4km drive (4 mile) from his home at Trump Tower to the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. During the drive, he posted on his social media website: “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME”.
He appeared calm and serious as he walked into the courthouse, pausing to wave at the crowd.
Protests outside court
Trump claims he is the victim of “political persecution” — but is also using the court case to energize his support base and raise millions of dollars for his bid to reclaim the White House next year.
He plans to speak to reporters as he walks through the hallways toward court, one of his attorneys told CNN.
“THE RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRATS HAVE CRIMINALIZED THE JUSTICE SYSTEM,” Trump wrote on Truth Social hours before the hearing, branding the legal proceedings a “kangaroo court.”
Hundreds of people gathered outside the venue, including dozens of Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators, media and curious onlookers.
Police stepped into the fray as the pro-Trump side — many sporting “MAGA” hats and attire emblazoned with the American flag — yelled slurs at counterprotesters.
The anti-Trump camp unfurled a large banner reading “Trump lies all the time” and chanted “Lock him up!” as Trump fans waved a flag with the slogan “Trump or Death.”
About 30 counts, including at least one felony, are expected to be unsealed during the arraignment, which may last around 15 minutes.
Afterward, Trump is due to return straight to Florida, where he plans to deliver an evening speech.
Trump was indicted last week by a grand jury in the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat.
The charges revolve around the investigation of $130,000 paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just days before Trump’s election win.
Trump’s former lawyer and aide Michael Cohen, who has since turned against his ex-boss, says he arranged the payment to Daniels in exchange for her silence about a tryst she says she had with Trump in 2006.
Trump, whose third wife Melania had recently given birth at the time, denies the affair.
Legal experts have suggested that if not properly accounted for, the payment could result in charges for falsifying business records, possibly for the purpose of covering up a campaign finance violation.
Trump is facing a series of separate criminal investigations at the state and federal level that could result in further — more serious — charges between now and election day.
They include his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state of Georgia, his handling of classified documents, and his possible involvement in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
President Joe Biden, mindful that anything he might say could fuel Trump’s claim of a politically “weaponized” judicial system, is one of the few Democrats holding back over the indictment of his rival.
Asked Monday whether he had faith in the legal system, Biden simply replied, “Yes.”
But Republicans have largely rallied around Trump, including his rival in the party’s presidential primary, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who called the indictment “un-American.”