NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s plane touched down in New York City on Monday ahead of what is expected to be a historic arraignment of a former president.
Trump’s ground journey from his Mar-a-Lago club to his red, white, and blue Boeing 757, emblazoned with “TRUMP” in gold letters was carried live on national television and took him past supporters waving banners and cheering the former president. They slammed the case against him – stemming from hush money payments during his 2016 campaign -as politically motivated.
The scene is poised to be quite different in New York, where Trump built a national profile in business and entertainment but became deeply unpopular as he moved into politics.
VIDEO | Eyewitness News Reporter Derick Waller reports on the heightened security ahead of Trump’s arrival:
His return to the city opens an unprecedented chapter in American history, with Trump being the first former president to face criminal charges even as he is in the midst of a third campaign for the White House, causing major legal, political, and cultural events collide in unprecedented ways.
The former president planned to spend the night at Trump Tower, then surrender to authorities on Tuesday for booking and a likely afternoon arraignment. So far, officials have not seen an influx of people coming into the city, as was the case in Washington in the days before the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Still, authorities warned that possessing a weapon in certain areas of the city, including near courthouses, is a crime.
“While there may be some rabble-rousers thinking about coming to our city tomorrow, our message is clear and simple: control yourselves,” said New York Mayor Eric Adams. “New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger. We are the safest large city in America because we respect the rule of law in New York City.”
VIDEO | N.J. Burkett was on scene at the Manhattan criminal courthouse:
Trump Tower was open Monday, but authorities were planning to close nearby streets as Trump came and went, and additional security was also in the works. They’ve taken steps to close and secure the courthouse floor where the former president is set to appear for an arraignment Tuesday afternoon.
Trump supporters, including one of his staunchest defenders in Congress, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, planned a rally in New York late Tuesday morning, probably before Trump would have to stand before a judge as part of the arraignment. Adams took the unusual step of calling out the congresswoman by name.
“Although we have no specific threats, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known to spread misinformation and hate speech, she’s stated she’s coming to town,” Adams said. “While you’re in town, be on your best behavior.”
The former president and his aides were eagerly embracing the expected media circus. After initially being caught off guard by news of the indictment when it broke Thursday evening, Trump and his team are focused on using what they call a weak case against Trump to his advantage.
More than 1,200 miles away in Florida, demonstrators supporting Trump began gathering before dawn at a West Palm Beach shopping center on the way to the airport, hours before he was set to pass along the route.
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Boca Raton firefighter Erik Solensten and his retired colleague, John Fischer, got an early start putting up banners. One was 30 by 6 feet (9 by 2 meters), picturing police officers and firefighters saying, “Thanks for having our backs, President Trump.”
“We are fire rescue. We are prepared and don’t like to wait for things to happen,” said Solensten, who took a vacation day to show support for Trump. “He needs morale just like everyone else needs morals. He’s done more for this country than any 10 presidents combined.”
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, arguing that the case against him is politically motivated.
No former president has ever been indicted and Trump’s active campaign for the presidency during next year’s election only further raises the political stakes. Trump spent the weekend golfing and meeting advisers but his campaign says it has raised more than $5 million since word of the indictment broke. One Trump fundraising email Monday carried the subject line, “Tomorrow, I will be arrested.”
Top Republicans, including some of Trump’s potential rivals in next year’s GOP presidential primary, have decried the case against him. President Joe Biden and leading Democrats have largely had little to say about it.
Sorensen said it is wrong that Trump is being charged with a crime stemming from an alleged tryst with a porn star long before he was in office. He said investigators should instead be looking at Biden’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings, which committees in the Republican-controlled House have already begun examining.
“To me, those acts are treasonable,” Sorensen said of the Bidens. “But it’s a walk.” more news
Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Bobby Caina Calvan, and Julie Walker contributed to this report from New York.