Donald Trump is set to appear in criminal court in New York City on Tuesday to be arraigned on dozens of charges related to hush money payments — the first time in American history a former president will face criminal charges.

Trump is expected to appear at the courthouse at 100 Centre St. in lower Manhattan in the early afternoon for fingerprinting and processing and to go before Judge Juan Merchan to enter a plea of not guilty around 2 p.m., when the charges against him will be unveiled.

The legal troubles, media spectacle and porn-star-hush-money salaciousness at the heart of the case are a new chapter for the New York tycoon-turned-TV-star-turned-politician, whose career has careened from scandal to success for four decades. This time, unlike his bankrupted casinos or failed marriages, many of Trump’s supporters and detractors argue that the fate of American democracy is hanging in the balance as the former president increasingly conflates any legal woes as an effort to illegitimately deny him a return to power.

With the failures of Jan. 6 still fresh in officials’ minds, security was high in the courthouse and nearby areas as the police department, court officers and Secret Service braced for protests amid the unprecedented arraignment of a former president.

While police shut down streets and the sound of a helicopter buzzed overhead, news outlets from around the world set up cameras near long lines of spectators, some of whom had camped out overnight in the hopes of getting a coveted seat inside.

The judge has barred TV cameras from inside the courtroom but decided to allow some photographers, who will capture historic images likely to end up on newspaper front pages, in election-season ads and in future history books.

“I think we’re on the eve of destruction. It’s just like surreal to me,” Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said Monday on Fox News.

‘Indict himself’

Trump called for “protests” in the event of his arrest last month, and he later ratcheted up his rhetoric, warning of “potential death and destruction” if he was charged criminally. He continued to post overnight on his social media site Truth Social, leveling criticism at the prosecutor.

“[I]f he wants to really clean up his reputation, he will do the honorable thing and, as District Attorney, INDICT HIMSELF,” Trump said on his Truth Social platform of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, whom Trump accused of leaking details of the indictment to the press.

Trump has also used the indictment to raise money for his 2024 campaign, which announced Monday evening that it had raised $7 million since a grand jury voted to indict Trump, 76, last Thursday.

Hundreds of pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators gathered in a small park across from the courthouse ahead of Trump’s scheduled appearance, including Reps. George Santos, R-N.Y., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and some of the exchanges between the competing camps grew heated.

Officials from the NYPD estimated there were about 300 pro-Trump demonstrators near the courthouse and 150 anti-Trump protestors.

A scheduled appearance by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a top Trump ally, was cut short after she was drowned out by whistles that had been handed out by another Trump supporter.

Mayor Eric Adams told reporters at a news conference Monday that the city was ready for unrest. “We are prepared,” he said.

Shortly before noon, however, protesters were still outnumbered by the mass of international news media that descended in the area around the courthouse, which included reporters from Brazil, Germany, France, Finland and Sweden.

The exact charges will be unsealed at the arraignment; two sources familiar with the matter have said Trump faces about 30 counts relating to allegations of document fraud connected to hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Under a 2019 New York state law that Trump as president criticized as being too soft on crime, the charges he’s believed to face don’t qualify for bail because they’re nonviolent offenses. Legal experts said the judge could restrict Trump’s travel but is unlikely to do so because he’s running for president and isn’t considered a flight risk.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the investigation by Bragg’s office a “witch hunt” and accusing the DA of being a “racist.”

Trump wrote Monday on Truth Social that he didn’t believe he could get a fair trial in Manhattan, where he lived for decades and made his name before moving to Florida during his presidency. The actions at the center of the investigations took place in New York, where Trump’s campaign was also headquartered at the time.

“The Corrupt D.A. has no case,” he wrote. “What he does have is a venue where it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to get a Fair Trial (it must be changed!)”

He also called for a new judge to preside over the case, saying he believes Merchan is “Trump Hating.” He “must be changed!” Trump wrote on his website. He has also said Merchan — who presided over last year’s criminal trial against the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer, which led to multiple convictions — was “hand-picked” by Bragg.

Court officials have said that Merchan was randomly assigned to oversee the grand jury investigation and that judges who supervise such probes generally try any cases that come out of the grand jury.

The last time Trump was in a Manhattan courthouse was for jury duty in 2015, when he praised the American legal system as a “great…system that works.”

Hush money payments

The DA’s investigation centered on hush money payments made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. He has denied the affairs and any wrongdoing.

Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer, paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the closing days of the campaign. He has said he made the payment at Trump’s direction, and Trump had acknowledged repaying Cohen through payments that were labeled as legal expenses.

Prosecutors also questioned witnesses about allegations that $150,000 in hush money had been previously paid to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, two sources familiar with the Manhattan grand jury’s work have said.

Cohen — who testified before the grand jury — acknowledged he was involved in both payments in a guilty plea in Manhattan federal court in 2018.

The arraignment is just the beginning of a lengthy legal process in the case that could take months or years to resolve.

Meanwhile, Trump has other legal problems on the horizon.

He faces a trial on civil rape and defamation claims brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll in nearby Manhattan federal court beginning on April 25. A $250 million lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general’s office alleging he, his family and his company grossly overstated his net worth to the tune of billions of dollars is scheduled to go to trial in October. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases, and he called Carroll’s allegations that he raped her in a New York City department store in the mid 1990s a “hoax.”

Trump is also the subject of at least three other criminal probes. Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating whether he and his allies coordinated attempts to alter the outcome of the 2020 election in the state.

Special counsel Jack Smith, meanwhile, is overseeing dual probes into Trump’s actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and his failure to comply with a Justice Department subpoena demanding the return of government documents and alleging possible mishandling of the documents.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all three probes and maintains he’s being unfairly persecuted for political reasons.