WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s legal team went on the offensive yesterday following his historic indictment, vowing the former president would never seek a plea deal and was ready “to fight” all charges.
The 76-year-old Trump, who is hoping to recapture the White House in 2024, chimed in with attacks on the prosecutors who brought the charges against him and even the judge expected to hear the case.
“ELECTION INTERFERENCE, KANGAROO COURT!” Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social, adding that Juan Manuel Marchal, the judge who may preside over an eventual trial, “hates me”.
Trump is to be booked, fingerprinted and will have a mugshot taken at a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday afternoon before appearing before a judge as the first American president to face criminal charges.
“The president will not be put in handcuffs,” said Joe Tacopina, one of Trump’s attorneys, adding that he does not believe prosecutors will “allow this to become a circus”.
Tacopina said the hush-money case being brought by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg against Trump faces “substantial legal challenges” and the former president would plead not guilty.
There is “zero” chance Trump would accept a plea deal, he told NBC’s Today show.
“It’s not going to happen. There’s no crime.”
Trump, who is currently at his palatial Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, was initially “shocked” at the indictment, his attorney said, but “he’s now in the posture that he’s ready to fight this”.
Trump’s pending arrest throws a political grenade into next year’s White House race and President Joe Biden sidestepped questions from reporters about the indictment of the Republican he beat in 2020 and could potentially face again in November of next year.
“I have no comment on Trump,” Biden said.
A New York grand jury indicted Trump on Thursday over a US$130,000 hush-money payment made to a porn star to buy her silence during his 2016 campaign.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Bragg, a Democrat, of waging a “political witch-hunt” to derail his new White House bid.
In predicting his indictment, Trump called for protests and warned it could lead to “potential death and destruction” for the country.
Extra security has been deployed for days around the downtown Manhattan courthouse where Trump is to be booked and arraigned.
Trump survived two impeachments while in the White House and kept prosecutors at bay over everything from the US Capitol riot to missing classified files – only to land in court over a sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels, a 44-year-old adult movie actress.
He faces felony investigations in Georgia relating to the 2020 election and in Washington over both the classified files and the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
Top Republicans have rallied around the former president who remains the favourite to win the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.
Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, said the indictment had “irreparably damaged” the country.
Trump’s former vice-president and possible 2024 challenger Mike Pence called it an “outrage” that would only “further serve to divide” the US.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, another likely 2024 Republican rival, slammed the indictment as “un-American”.
On the Democratic side, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no one is above the law” and representative Adam Schiff – lead prosecutor of Trump’s first impeachment – called it “sobering”.
“The indictment and arrest of a former president is unique throughout all of American history,” Schiff said.
“But so too is the unlawful conduct for which Trump has been charged.”
Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress in 2019 that he made the payment to Daniels on Trump’s behalf to hide a 2006 tryst and was later reimbursed.
The grand jury that indicted Trump was asked to consider if there had been a cover-up intended to benefit his campaign by burying the scandal.
The impact of the indictment on Trump’s 2024 election chances is unpredictable but senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, said it would benefit the former president.
“From a political point of view, it’s going to solidify Trump’s standing in the Republican Party,” Graham told The Washington Post.