By JILL COLVIN, MICHAEL R. SISAK, TERRY SPENCER and WILL WEISSERT
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump returned to New York from his Florida estate Monday for his historic booking and arraignment on hush money charges related to allegations of sexual encounters. The nation’s largest city bolstered security and warned potential protesters it was “not a playground for your misplaced anger.”
Trump’s long day started with a motorcade ride from his Mar-a-Lago club to his red, white and blue Boeing 757, emblazoned with his name in gold letters — all carried live on television. The mini-parade took him past supporters waving banners and cheering, decrying the case against him that stems 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 a small group of senior campaign aides were joined aboard by his son, Eric Trump, who eagerly posted photos of the wall-to-wall coverage from his seat.
The scene was quite different in New York, where Trump will be arraigned on Tuesday — facing a judge in the city where he 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. City leaders urged calm.
“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. … We are the safest large city in America because we respect the rule of law.”
Trump stepped off his jet alone and directly into a waiting black SUV, with no one greeting him. Only small, sparse groups of supporters lined the route as his motorcade used a police escort to whisk him into Manhattan.
From the air, the procession conjured images of a current president on the move rather than a former one facing criminal charges. But there was no one to great him as he arrived at Trump Tower, the street having been cleared. He gave a brief wave anyway.
Advisers said Trump spent the flight working. He was to meet with his attorneys, then spend the night at Trump Tower before surrendering to authorities for booking and the arraignment.
It was the opening of 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 says the media circus could work to his political advantage. Trump senior adviser Jason Miller said the campaign had raised $7 million since word of the indictment broke, but official figures have not yet been released.
One Trump fundraising email Monday carried the subject line, “Tomorrow, I will be arrested.”
After initially being caught off guard by news of the indictment last Thursday evening, advisors are now working to see if the case against him helps his 2024 campaign. 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.
The former president 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.
Trump Tower was open Monday and, though security was tight. There were few supporters for Trump or people protesting against him nearby, with a small group hanging “Trump 2024” banners.
Officials haven’t seen an influx of people coming into the city, as was the case in Washington in the days before a mob of Trump supporters overran the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. Still, they warned that possessing a weapon in certain areas of the city, including near courthouses, is a crime.
One of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, was helping to organize a Tuesday morning rally at a park across from the courthouse where Trump will appear, and Mayor Adams took the unusual step of calling her out 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.”
Authorities also have taken steps to close and secure the courthouse floor where Trump is to appear before a judge as part of his arraignment.
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.
Arriving in Minnesota where he was touring a factory to promote his administration’s economic policies, Biden was asked if he thought there would be unrest in New York.
“No, I have faith in the New York Police Department,” the president replied. He also said he had faith in the nation’s legal system.
Florida Trump supporters began gathering while the sun was still rising at a West Palm Beach shopping center on the way to the airport, hours before the former president was set to pass along the route.
Boca Raton firefighter Erik Solensten and his retired colleague, John Fischer, put 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 morale. He’s done more for this country than any 10 presidents combined.”
Top Republicans, including some of Trump’s potential rivals in next year’s GOP presidential primary, have decried the case against him. Biden, who has yet to formally announce that he’s seeking reelection next year, and other leading Democrats have largely had little to say about it, including on Monday.
Trump’s former U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, was campaigning near the U.S.-Mexico border and suggested that coverage of the former president’s indictment was distracting from other key issues such as immigration. But she also said, “You’ve got a liberal prosecutor that’s doing political revenge against a former president.”
“We’re dealing with a lot of political drama that’s unnecessary because you’ve got political, vengeful people out there,” Haley told Fox News Channel.