Former US president Donald Trump has surrendered to authorities at a Manhattan court ahead of his arraignment on criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.
Wearing his signature dark suit and red tie, Mr Trump turned and waved to crowds outside the building before heading inside to be fingerprinted and processed — a remarkable reckoning after years of investigations into his personal, business and political dealings and an extraordinary moment in US history.
A stone-faced Mr Trump entered the courtroom shortly before 2.30pm local time without saying anything.
Along the way, the ex-president posted on his social media platform: “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
The booking and appearance before Judge Juan Merchan should be relatively brief — though hardly routine — as Mr Trump learns for the first time the charges against him.
Mr Trump will plead not guilty, according to his lawyers, and is expected to enter the plea himself, as is standard in the court.
Judge Merchan has ruled that TV cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom.
“He is strong and ready to go,” Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told The Associated Press.
Earlier, Mr Tacopina said in a TV interview that the former president would not plead guilty to lesser charges, even if it might resolve the case. He also said he did not think the case would make it to a jury.
New York police said they were ready for large protests by Trump supporters, who share the Republican former president’s belief that 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 in 2024.
Journalists often outnumbered protesters, though.
Mr Trump, a former reality TV star, has been hyping that narrative to his political advantage, saying he raised more than eight million dollars in the days since the indictment on claims of a “witch hunt”.
His campaign released a fundraising request titled “My last email before arrest” and he has repeatedly 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.
A conviction would not prevent Mr Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024.
Inside the Manhattan courtroom, prosecutors led by New York’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, are expected to unseal the indictment issued last week by a grand jury.
This is when Mr Trump and his defence lawyers will get their first glimpse of the precise allegations against him.
The indictment contains multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offence, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press last week.
After the arraignment, Mr Trump is expected to be released by authorities because the charges against him do not require that bail be set.
The investigation is scrutinising six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Mr Trump years before he got into politics.
Mr Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.