U.S. enters uncharted waters as Trump faces criminal charges
STORY: A growing police presence and a throng of TV news cameras surrounded a Manhattan courthouse on Friday, where ex-President Donald Trump was due to be fingerprinted and get a mug shot next week, as he becomes the first sitting or former commander-in-chief in American history to face criminal charges.
A lawyer for Trump said the former president will plead not guilty to the charges related to a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels made just days before the 2016 presidential election.
Another Trump attorney said he will not be handcuffed when he is expected to surrender on Tuesday, under the terms of a deal agreed to by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Legal experts said any potential trial is still at least more than a year away, meaning it could occur during or after the presidential campaign.
Such a high-profile case would make it hard to find a pool of jurors who are not just impartial but also willing to serve on what will likely be the most consequential political trial in American history, says former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
"Very difficult to find jurors who've never heard of Donald Trump, don't have an opinion about the man. Difficult to deal with protests and potential outrage and the safety of everyone involved, right? There have already been threats made against the prosecutor."
Jurors are also expected to be open minded to the facts of a case, but polling shows Trump supporters and his opponents are not easily dissuaded from their views of the former president. That could play to Trump's advantage, says James Sample, who teaches law at Hofstra University.
"His supporters, there's 30 percent of the population that believes that he can do no wrong, has done no wrong and can never do wrong. That 30 percent of the population, they may end up on the jury and that could be part of the way that the defense may have a strategy to find that one juror, trying to find those two jurors that might vote to acquit."
But Sample also notes that a court of law is a different arena than the court of public opinion.
"Spin won't matter, facts will matter, the law will matter and just as happened between election day in November of 2020 and the certification of the vote on January 6, 2021, in that in between period, every single time the president took his election denial efforts to court, in court where facts and law actually matter, he lost."
Trump's expected appearance before a judge in New York as he seeks the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race could further divide the country.
Trump said he was "completely innocent" and indicated he would not drop out of the race.