NEW YORK – Steel barriers lined streets near the courthouse, roads were closed, and traffic was diverted across a swath of Manhattan on Tuesday in preparation for the arraignment of former President Donald Trump.
Trump, twice impeached by Congress while president but never convicted, becomes the first former commander in chief to face criminal charges. A Secret Service escort will accompany him on the 4-mile journey from Trump Tower to Manhattan Criminal Court.
The arraignment is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. The exact charges have yet to be revealed, but they stem from alleged hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump before the 2016 election.
Trump took aim at the proceedings in a Truth Social post Tuesday, describing Judge Juan Merchan as “highly partisan” and calling for the trial to be moved to Staten Island.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said they had been preparing for the arraignment for weeks and warned protesters that violence “will never be tolerated in our city.”
STEEL BARRIERS, POLICE PRESENCE:New York adds police presence, steel barriers ahead of Trump arraignment: Graphics
►Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that TV cameras won’t be allowed in the courtroom.
►Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is scheduled to make a public statement at about 3:30 p.m. Trump will return to Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and make a public statement at 8:15 p.m. – but could first speak to reporters outside the courtroom.
►The New York Federal Plaza immigration courts shut down for the day because of large crowds of people and associated street closures.
People crowded around to hear Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, speak briefly in a park outside of the Manhattan Criminal Court building. She was greeted by a mix of cheers and boos, including some whistles, that drowned much of her speech out as she spoke from a microphone. Protestors and supporters alike jockeyed for position in the small park.
Christina Lo, 61, a retiree from Manhattan’s Chinatown just on the other side of the courthouse, cleared her schedule to support Trump, calling his indictment political persecution by Democrats.
“They had to wait until he declared his presidential run,” she said.
Dion Cini, 54, came from Brooklyn with a large “trump or death” flag to show his support for the former president.
“It’s a tragedy what’s happening in New York City today,” he said, but ultimately was optimistic that the trial would work in his favor. “I think Donald Trump is going to get 20 points in the polls.”
– Eduardo Cuevas and Zach Wichter
Rep. George Santos, R-NY, himself facing multiple investigations into apparent lies he told while running for office, joined the crowd outside the Manhattan courthouse. He said he didn’t plan to go inside the courthouse but came to “support to president.”
“I think this is unprecedented, and it’s a bad day for democracy,” Santos said. “What’s to stop the next prosecutor in two years from doing the same thing to Joe Biden and moving on every four years? So this makes bad precedent legally. And it makes, it cheapens the judicial system, and it’s not good for America.”
Near Trump Tower, Manhattan resident Ken Kidd, 65, was protesting with a small group. Kidd, a university administrator, said he is from a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was “taught right from wrong.”
“The criminality of the 45th president of the United States brought me out here,” he said. “He’s a criminal, he’s a traitor, he’s disgraced and he’s disgraceful.”
– Asher Stockler, The Journal News
At least one flareup between anti-Trump protesters and those supporting the former president required police intervention hours before the arraignment. Social media video appeared to show a Trump supporter tackling an anti-Trump banner. Shouts of “communist agitators” and “back off now” came amid pushing and shoving among a handful of protesters who were far outnumbered by media taking in the scene. A police officer intervened and order appeared to be restored.
The line for a seat in the judge’s courtroom or two overflow courtrooms had grown close to 100 – mostly members of the media – before dawn Tuesday. Mike Magliano, one of the court officers on the scene, explained that members of the media could leave after obtaining a pass, then come back at 1 p.m. Passes were distributed at 8 a.m.
“Don’t lose that ticket, it’s the hottest ticket in town,” he said.
Up the block across from the court, Gregory Williams, 57, who came down from the Bronx, was seated next to a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout and a sign that said “lock him up.”
“Today is going to be a very historic day,” Williams said. Although he said in the end, Trump was likely to benefit more than anyone from the media circus around the proceedings.
“In reality today is just a Trump mega campaign event,” Williams said.
– Zach Wichter
Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said Tuesday that Trump will undergo normal arraignment processing, which generally includes fingerprints, mugshots and paperwork.
“I think there will be a typical processing, which does not take long, 20-30 minutes. There won’t be handcuffs,” Tacopina told ABC’s Good Morning America. “And then we’ll appear before a judge, you know, deal with a couple issues right off the bat and it won’t be a long day in court.”
Tacopina also said he doubts the case will ever make it to a jury and that there will be no guilty plea. “That is one thing I can guarantee you,” he said.
TRUMP RETURNS TO NYC TO FACE CHARGES:Mayor warns protesters ‘control yourselves’: live updates
The city has stationed officers and put up steel barriers near the courthouse and Trump Tower, where Trump stayed Monday night. The heavy police presence is designed to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington, after Trump urged thousands of supporters to stop President-elect Joe Biden from taking office.
Adams acknowledged that there may be “rabble rousers” taking to the streets, but added that “our message is clear and simple. Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger.”
Contributing: The Associated Press