NEW YORK/PALM BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Donald Trump prepared to fly from Florida to New York City on Monday to face charges stemming from a probe into hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election, as security tightened in Manhattan.
Trump was due to surrender at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on Tuesday and likely will be fingerprinted and photographed prior to his appearance before a judge at an arraignment proceeding where he will plead not guilty.
Trump, a Republican who is seeking to regain the presidency in 2024, is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.
The specific charges included in the grand jury indictment have not been disclosed. Trump has said he is innocent, and he and his allies have portrayed the charges as politically motivated.
In a social media post late on Sunday, Trump said he planned to leave his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach at noon for the Trump Tower in Manhattan before heading to the courthouse on Tuesday morning.
Trump's plane - with his name in big letters on the side and an image of the American flag on the tail - was parked at the West Palm Beach airport near Mar-a-Lago.
Small groups of Trump fans waited to show their support at the airport and on the route he was expected to take to get there.
"Our country needs him," said Cindy Falco, 65, of Boynton Beach, Florida. "He's pro-God, pro-family and pro-country."
Falco predicted exoneration, saying: "Nothing is going to stick to him."
A court official said the arraignment was planned for 2:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) on Tuesday. Trump then will return to Florida and deliver remarks from Mar-a-Lago at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday (0015 GMT on Wednesday), his office said.
Trump is expected to appear before Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who presided over a criminal trial last year in which Trump's real estate company was convicted of tax fraud. Trump himself was not charged in that case.
Trump wrote on social media on Friday that Merchan "HATES ME" and also has assailed the prosecutor on the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
A court official said the judge will decide on Monday whether to allow cameras and video in the courtroom.
New York police over the weekend began erecting barricades along the edge of the sidewalks around Trump Tower and the Manhattan Criminal Court building downtown. Media crews set up close to Trump Tower and some spectators lined up nearby.
Demonstrations are expected at those sites and police said they were prepared.
Other courtrooms on the courthouse's higher floors will be shut down before the arraignment as part of the security precautions, a court official said.
A $130,000 PAYMENT
Before the indictment, the grand jury heard evidence about a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels has said she was paid to keep silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006. Trump denies having had any such relationship with her.
Trump, 76, served as president from 2017 to 2021 and in November launched a bid to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, aiming to deny Democratic President Joe Biden a second term in office.
The indictment may have boosted his candidacy, at least in the short term.
"Now I am absolutely voting for Trump," said Larry White, 75, a Nevada musician who had previously considered backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination. "The indictment was the last straw for me, because Trump has suffered so much political abuse."
The New York case is one of several probes Trump faces.
A local prosecutor in Georgia is investigating whether Trump unlawfully sought to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state. A special counsel named by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland separately is pursing two criminal investigations, one involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and the other relating to classified documents he retained after departing the White House in 2021.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Palm Beach, Florida and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by Tim Reid in Henderson, Nevada; Jonathan Allen, Jeenah Moon and David Dee Delgado in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Howard Goller)