Former President Donald J. Trump’s arraignment on a four-count federal indictment on Thursday will mark a momentous and once unimaginable turn in Mr. Trump’s long public life. And yet his appearance in a public courtroom in Washington should be a relatively routine affair.
Arraignments typically last an hour or less and cover a few mundane topics. They are by now familiar to Mr. Trump, who has already been arraigned once each in state and federal court in the past four months.
After he arrives at the courthouse, Mr. Trump will be booked and fingerprinted, all part of the behind-the-scenes process of being a criminal defendant at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse, the venue for dozens of trials stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Once in court, Mr. Trump will hear the charges against him, which center on his effort to overturn the 2020 election results. Moxila A. Upadhyaya, the federal magistrate judge overseeing the arraignment, will then ask for his plea. Mr. Trump, or one of the lawyers acting on his behalf, will almost certainly respond “not guilty.”
Judge Upadhyaya, who will soon hand off the case to a trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, will also probably ask prosecutors to present any conditions for Mr. Trump’s release. The prosecutors — working for the special counsel, Jack Smith — might attach few if any strings. When Mr. Trump was indicted in June, accused of mishandling classified documents and obstructing the government’s investigation, Mr. Smith requested no bail and no restrictions on Mr. Trump’s travel, reflecting his status as the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
At some arraignments, judges set a preliminary calendar for the case. The schedule could have far-reaching implications, with Mr. Trump already facing two other criminal trials next year, in the thick of the 2024 race. (In addition to the documents case, the Manhattan district attorney brought charges against Mr. Trump in March, accusing him of trying to cover up a potential sex scandal with a porn star before the 2016 election.)
But because the magistrate judge, not Judge Chutkan, is presiding over the arraignment, those more consequential matters will probably have to wait.
Although arraignments are typically low-key proceedings, nothing about Mr. Trump and his legal woes is ever fully devoid of drama. It remains unclear whether any of his lawyers or advisers, who have been publicly attacking the indictment the last two days, will air their grievances at the arraignment or save their concerns for Judge Chutkan’s courtroom.
If the proceeding goes as planned, it should conclude around 5 p.m., at which point Mr. Trump is expected to return to his private jet, which will take him back to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Ben Protess is an investigative reporter covering the federal government, law enforcement and various criminal investigations into former President Trump and his allies. More about Ben Protess
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