Former President Donald Trump flew Monday from Florida to New York for his historic booking and arraignment on hush money charges, as the nation’s largest city bolstered security and warned potential protesters it was “not a playground for your misplaced anger.”
Trump’s motorcade ride from his Mar-a-Lago club to his red, white and blue Boeing 757, emblazoned with his name in gold letters, was carried live on cable television. It took him past supporters waving banners and cheering, decrying the case against him — stemming from payments made during his 2016 campaign — as politically motivated.
Trump is already months into a third campaign to reclaim the White House he lost to President Joe Biden in 2020, and he and his advisers seemed to relish the attention. Cable networks followed his plane at airports in Florida and New York with video from the air, and Trump was joined aboard by a small group of senior campaign aides as well as his son, Eric Trump, who eagerly posted photos of the wall-to-wall TV coverage from his seat.
The scene was quite different in New York, where Trump built a national profile in business and entertainment but became deeply unpopular as he moved into politics. Prosecutors say their case against him has nothing to do with politics and have defended the work of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg who is leading it.
Trump is facing multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense, in the indictment handed down by a Manhattan grand jury last week. The investigation is scrutinizing six-figure payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Both say they had sexual encounters with the married Trump years before he got into politics. Trump denies having sexual liaisons with either woman and has denied any wrongdoing involving payments.
It’s an unprecedented chapter in American history, with Trump the first former president to face criminal charges. But he’s betting it could actually boost his chances at winning the presidency again next year. In the meantime, the case is causing major legal, political and cultural events to collide in unprecedented ways.
Trump’s team was embracing the media circus. After initially being caught off guard by news of the indictment last Thursday evening, he and his aides are hoping to use the case to his advantage. That idea clashed with the former president’s own attorneys, however, who asked the judge in a Monday filing to ban photo and video coverage of his arraignment, which is expected Tuesday afternoon.
Repeating his frequent denunciation, Trump posted, “WITCH HUNT” on his social media network.
He also bolstered his legal team Monday, adding a third high-profile attorney, Todd Blanche, according to three people familiar with the matter. Blanche, a former federal prosecutor, has previously represented Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The people would not publicly discuss details of the legal team’s plan and therefore spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.