In a city that often feels like a living movie set, Donald Trump’s date with justice on Tuesday could easily shatter records: there will be celebrities, extras, protests, celebrations, an overwhelming police presence, and levels of anxiety close to hyperventilation among members of the media as they cover the first ever arraignment in U.S. history of a sitting or former president. Trump’s lightning quick visit to New York City to hear the charges against him has the city on alert.
Although security forces are not aware of any specific serious threats, they are preparing for the foreseeable disturbances when the former president shows up to surrender at the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and when he is arraigned at the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building. Demonstrations by both supporters and detractors of Trump are expected.
Trump arrived in town on Monday after flying in from Florida on his private plane, and he spent the night at Trump Tower, the Fifth Avenue headquarters of his business empire and springboard of his political career, and outside which supporters had been planning a welcoming committee. Trump is due on Tuesday at around 2:15 p.m. local time at the Manhattan prosecutor’s office and criminal court; six hours later, during television prime time, he will address his followers from his mansion in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where he has been confined since the legal offensive against him intensified.
Possible obstruction of justice
One of Trump’s open legal fronts, involving classified documents that he took from the White House, has become more complicated in recent hours after the Department of Justice and the FBI found evidence of possible obstruction of the investigation by the business mogul, according to The Washington Post. After accessing emails and text messages from a ex-staffer, investigators are focusing on what transpired after Trump’s legal team received a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents, sources familiar with the matter told the D.C. newspaper.
But the Mar-a-Lago papers are looking little more than an anecdote compared to the scene of Trump being booked just like any suspected criminal. The presidential hopeful for the 2024 campaign will plead “not guilty” on Tuesday after hearing the charges read by Judge Juan Merchan, acting justice in the New York State Supreme Court. The more than 30 charges to be brought against him, and which are yet to be made public, are related to the hush money paid in 2016 to the porn actress Stormy Daniels so she would keep quiet about an extramarital affair.
Access to the building that houses the D.A.’s office and the court, as well as the adjacent streets, will be closed to traffic to facilitate Trump’s arrival and departure and to prevent a rally by supporters called by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (known as MTG), a Republican from Georgia who is one of the former president’s main supporters, as well as a leading backer of the far-right QAnon movement on Capitol Hill. Her views are so extreme that in February 2021 she was repudiated by the House, which voted to remove her from committee assignments.
In a Democratic stronghold like New York, the success of MTG’s call remains unknown, but the NYPD has ordered all its officers to stand ready in anticipation of incidents. There is evident fear of a repetition, even if it is on a small scale, of the violence seen in D.C. on January 6, 2021 when die-hard Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Federal, state and local security forces have been coordinating efforts for days together with the secret service. There were significantly more helicopters flying overhead in Manhattan than usual on Monday. Mayor Eric Adams has asked drivers to leave their car at home on Tuesday ahead of a foreseeable collapse of traffic in Manhattan.
According to NBC station, Trump will surrender at the Manhattan prosecutor’s office, located on the 15th floor of the building at 100 Center Street, which borders bustling Chinatown. During the process he will not be handcuffed and he will be allowed to keep his cellphone. There will be no video cameras allowed as he is fingerprinted and processed. The entire 15th floor will be vacated, as other cases scheduled for Tuesday have been postponed. Trump will then appear before Judge Merchan, who is expected to charge the Republican with falsifying accounting records to hide the nature of the bribe to Stormy Daniels. The Trump Organization recorded as a “legal expense” a reimbursement of $130,000 to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had advanced the money to the actress. Trump signed the checks to repay that sum to Cohen when he was already president. This irregular accounting is at the root of the legal proceedings.
Trump’s legal team maintains that the whole thing amounts to “political persecution” and a “complete abuse of power” that the former president is willing to fight, according to what one of his lawyers, Joe Tacopina, declared this Sunday on ABC News. “He is a tough guy,” stressed the lawyer, before expressing his confidence that the process will take place “as quickly as possible to exonerate him.” Trump himself lashed out again against the accusation and the “witch hunt” of which he claims to be a victim.
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